"My husband, Andrés, and I first heard about SOS Children's Villages in the early 90s.
Since Andrés is Peruvian, we decided that an effective way of helping at least some Peruvian children would be to work through this organization, which had impressed us with its efficiency, long-term goals and cultural emphasis.
We travel to Peru to visit Andrés' family every few years, and felt that this would enable us to get to know our sponsored children. Since we speak Spanish, language is not a barrier to our relationship with them. Our most recent trip was in June-July this past summer.
Our first stop was the SOS Village in the Andean city of Cuzco, to visit Dina. We have been sponsoring Dina since 1995 when she was only three, and have a large collection of her pictures and letters.
I was immediately welcomed into her birthday. Dina is a lively and affectionate child who loves to talk.
When I left, she threw her arms around me and exclaimed 'Don't go!' This is the wonderful part of being able to visit sponsored children.
Our other sponsored child is Javier who lives in Lima, the capital city. When we first met him in 1995, Javier was very shy, and I remember our conversation as stilted. Since then, however, we have come to know him much better.
I visited him again in 1998, when he had 'graduated' to a youth home and was finishing secondary school. On that occasion he took on the role of tour guide, and showed me around some of his favourite parts of Lima.
Now 21, Javier is in his second year of study in SENATI, a prestigious technical school, where he is specializing in motor mechanics.
In his free time, Javier participates in a traditional dance group. This meant that we almost didn't get to see him when we visited Peru in July. His group had been invited to participate in a festival hosted by SOS Chile, and had problems with their flight back.
Javier had been keeping in touch with us by phone, reporting his slow progress back to Lima, but on our last day he was still stuck in the south of Peru. I had resigned myself to not seeing him this time since we had to leave for the airport in a few hours, when the phone rang again.
Javier had arrived and was phoning from the airport! We were able to meet and have a short time to catch up on our news. I am looking forward to seeing the photos he has promised to send me. Javier has developed into a mature and responsible young man with a clear idea of where he wants to go in life.
On all the occasions we have visited SOS Villages in Peru, I have been impressed by their beauty and tranquility, with caring SOS mothers, comfortable houses and lots of green spaces for the children to play in, and that the children are integrated into the wider community as much as possible.
I feel privileged to have been able to take a small part in helping two of these children to grow up in a safe and loving atmosphere."