Selfless Dreams

By Robyn Wilson, Child Champion, U.S.A.

A Tennessee couple finds joy in sponsoring kids who are determined to make a difference, like they do.

Generous. Compassionate. Faithful.

And most of all humble.

All of that comes to mind when talking with Don and Paula from Clarksville, Tennessee.

I recently had the honor of interviewing this remarkable couple for OneChild’s Digital Magazine — a special group of stories that highlight kids who are pursuing their dreams.

Don and Paul sponsor 10 children because they have such a heart for God and kids in hard places.

In 2012, their son, Brian, introduced them to OneChild — where he was sponsoring 12 kids — and he encouraged them to change children’s lives with him.

Sponsoring Kids Who Have Big Goals

One thing that Don and Paula enjoy about OneChild is that it’s easy to learn a little bit about each child online before sponsoring. They love searching for kids who are determined to overcome poverty and help people in their communities thrive.

“When we first started looking for a child to sponsor, we wanted to find someone who has great goals in life — a child who dreams of having a profession that will bring hope to their family and community,” says Paula.

“Then we noticed Merjury from Zimbabwe, who dreamed of becoming a teacher. We felt connected to her story. She was 9 at the time, and we sponsored her until she graduated from OneChild’s program. To see her mature over the years was so encouraging!”

After sponsoring Merjury, Don and Paula felt like God was leading them to give hope to more children.

“We started with one child, and it inspired us to keep sponsoring more,” says Paula.

“Each child is very special. We wanted to give more kids a bright future and help them pursue their dreams.”

Paula and Don


They also remember the moment they sponsored Rumbidzai, a girl in Zimbabwe who was 9 at the time. Today, Rumbidzai is 15 and eager to become a surgeon because of a shortage of doctors in her community. She is determined to help save lives.

Three years ago, Don and Paula were also delighted to sponsor Ruvimbo in Zimbabwe.

Now, at age 16, her dream of playing chess at the national level has already come true. And in a recent letter, Ruvimbo wrote that one day she hopes to play chess with Don virtually.

She also wants to become a doctor so she can help others in her country.


And Sometimes … It’s Their Smile

Even though Don and Paula do their best to choose children with inspiring dreams, sometimes it’s simply a child’s smile that inspires them to sponsor.


“When we’re looking at kids who are waiting to be sponsored,” says Paula, “the smile on their face might just touch your heart and you say, ‘She’s the one!’”

That’s exactly what happened when they recently noticed Buzuayehu, a 13-year-old girl from Ethiopia, on OneChild’s website.

“We couldn’t resist sponsoring her,” Paula says.

Don and Paula also enjoy sponsoring kids who attend the same schools.

“We think it’s special because they become sponsor siblings,” says Paula.

“It creates a special bond between them because they can share stories and encourage each other.”


Give Hope to One More Child

Whatever strategy you use to find your children, Don and Paula encourage you to change as many lives as possible.

“Just do it,” says Don. “Sponsor another child!

“You can go online, read children’s stories, and choose another boy or girl,” he explains. “When you can see their photos and read their stories, it makes it real and hits you personally. You’ll love knowing that you’re helping transform one more life!”

They also encourage you to pray about who to sponsor because God knows which child needs you in their life — and which child you need in your life.

Why do you sponsor a child? Join the Wall of Champions and share your story! It only takes two minutes — and it will help encourage others to change children’s lives with you.


A Way to Live Out Your Faith

Habtamu, one of Don and Paula’s sponsored kids.

Don and Paula also sponsor because they want to live out their faith and honor God.

“These children don’t have the things that we have,” Paula says. “It’s so easy to help and it doesn’t take much.

“As the Lord blesses us, we want to help more children rather than spend money on things that aren’t meaningful. Many of us in America have been blessed with a great abundance compared to families living in extreme poverty. What most of us spend on fast food and small conveniences alone can help change a child’s life.”

“In the Bible, it tells us that if someone is hungry, we need to satisfy that need along with ministering to them,” says Don. “Giving kids clean water, food to eat, clothes — it all goes hand in hand. People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.

“The Lord has blessed us, and we need to use what He’s given to us to help others. And when you get kids into a Hope Center, they receive so much to help them reach their full potential.”

The Difference Sponsorship Makes

After learning more about what life is like for children in poverty, Don and Paula are amazed by how much hope sponsorship brings.

“When you read the children’s background stories and learn about their communities, you start to really understand the way these kids are living,” says Don.

“It’s heartbreaking. Many moms and dads wonder how they are going to feed their children and give them a good future. Sponsorship meets critical needs and helps kids thrive.”

Breaking the Cycle of Poverty

Don and Paula also see sponsorship as an effective way to break the cycle of poverty.

“Our dream for the kids we sponsor is that they will succeed and pay it forward,” says Paula.

“When kids graduate from the program, they are equipped to get stable jobs and help their parents and communities. It’s a ripple effect. And it’s wonderful that we’re not just affecting that child — we’re affecting their whole family, and their community!”

Firmly Rooted in God’s Love

Another aspect that Don and Paula appreciate about OneChild’s sponsorship program is that kids learn how much God cares about them.

Hindricks is a teen sponsored by Don and Paula.

“It’s our prayer that our sponsored kids will grow spiritually, and then go on to minister to other kids,” says Paula. “In their Hope Centers, they become firmly rooted in God’s love and many of them are excited to tell others about Him!

“Children realize they have an inspiring testimony to share. Every single one of these kids, when they write to us about how they celebrate Easter or Christmas, it is always about celebrating God, and Jesus in particular. And they share that hope with their families.”

Watching Hindricks, one of their sponsored teenagers in Haiti, grow spiritually has been especially rewarding.

“He has such a caring heart,” says Paula. “In his last letter, Hindricks wrote, ‘Greetings in the name of our powerful Jesus! May God bless you and keep you healthy and happy.’ At first, he seemed so shy, but he’s become strong and bold in his faith!”

Building a Special Relationship

Each letter that Don and Paula receive from their sponsored children fills them with joy.

Itai is one of Don and Paula’s sponsored kids.

“When they are younger and/or not accustomed to corresponding, their letters are short and very simple. Most likely Child Champions are helping them because the letters tend to say similar things,” says Paula.

“But as they get older, their personalities begin to shine through! It means a lot to have them share their lives.”

Sending gifts to their children also brings a smile to Paula’s face.

“Even small things can delight them since they have so little,” she says. “They are thankful for anything they receive. I follow the guidelines, but I cram as much as I can into those small envelopes — it makes it fun!”

Together, Don and Paula do whatever they can to encourage their sponsored children.

“This is about making an investment in the kids’ lives — not just financially, but emotionally,” says Paula. “You are building a relationship with a child and helping to transform their life. You become personally invested. You share your life with them and they share their life with you. The kids you sponsor become family.

“Anybody can write a check, but to put your heart into it and truly care is much more meaningful.”

How much do letters from sponsors mean to kids? Find out in this inspiring story!


Sponsoring a Child Changes Your Life, Too

Embracing sponsorship has also created a special bond between Don and Paula.

“We’ve been married almost 42 years, and we still like each other!” jokes Don. “We’re both really into this.”

And each child they sponsor feels like a gift from God.

“There’s a spiritual blessing in store for anyone who gives for the right reason,” Don says. “And we always feel good when we do what God wants us to do, especially when we do it together!

“Sharing God’s love with kids and helping them reach their potential is very fulfilling. When you sponsor a child, you are blessed in return.”

Protecting the Most Vulnerable Kids

Don and Paula sponsor Kudakwashe.

Paula also has a passion for protecting children from trafficking and helping those affected by HIV/AIDS.

“It’s shocking what goes on around the world,” says Paula. “It’s heartbreaking that in many countries, men abuse and rape girls and then those girls contract HIV/AIDS. The girls are often so young.

“It’s important that we educate ourselves about the realities that children face. We pray, especially for our girls, that God will protect them so they will be safe, and grow up to be healthy, happy, and productive adults, and in turn choose to minister God’s love to others.”

You can send a special donation to help empower survivors of abuse, exploitation, and trafficking. Your generous gift will bring healing and hope!


Trusting the Lord for The Future

Don recently retired as the chief financial officer of a small construction company, although he spent most of his career in the software field.

Mohammednur is sponsored by Don and Paula.

Mohammednur is sponsored by Don and Paula.

“We’re not sure about our future income, but we know that God is in charge,” says Don. “And as He provides for us, we’ll share as much as we can.”

Paula, who loved being a homemaker for 32 years, was also a Christian speaker for 15 years. Now, she works as a marketing director for a medical and mobility company.

“I’m like the Energizer Bunny — God gave me extra batteries!” she says. “I like doing home projects and landscaping. I love power tools!”

It was also important for Paula to share an important Bible verse that continues to guide her each day.

She explains that Colossians 3:17 and 3:23 tell us to do everything in the name of the Lord.

“So, whatever I do, I’m going to put my whole heart into it, and not cut corners just to get it done. We all need to have a spirit of excellence and, no matter what you do, do it for the Lord!”

It’s All About God

Out of all the inspiring statements that Don and Paula made during our interview, my favorite part was their very last comment.

Sintayehu is sponsored by Don and Paula.

Yamilex is sponsored by Don and Paula.

“As you write this story, Robyn, please remember that we do not want this story to be all about Don and me,” says Paula. “It’s about God and us being vessels He can use.

“We’re so grateful that God allows us to help children pursue their dreams. And we believe that those kids will go on to share His love. We only want God to be glorified.”

Now that’s true humility, love, and compassion.

And I don’t know what could be closer to God’s heart.

If you’re encouraged by Don and Paula’s story and would like to give another child in poverty a new beginning, find a boy or girl who needs you today!

Be uplifted by another child’s story! Hiwot’s dream was to become an accountant like her sponsor — and she accomplished her goal. Today, this graduate from OneChild’s sponsorship program is encouraging other kids in her Ethiopian community to pursue their dreams too. Watch Hiwot’s powerful video!