(Note: This is part one of a two part story on Bill and Dee Robertson and their trip to Bolivia to meet the two girls they sponsor through Compassion International.)
By Marlys Good
Bill and Dee Robertson have been involved in Compassion International, a child-advocacy ministry that pairs compassionate people with those who are suffering from poverty, since the early 1990s. Bill, whose involvement actually dated back to 1988, was sponsoring Evanston, a young Kenyon boy who has since grown up and out of the system. He added another Kenyan boy, Pius, who is now 21 years old, and their sponsorship children have grown to include 8-year-old Ayen in Indonesia and Maria, 14, and Marlene, 15, who live in Bolivia.
As the years passed, the time came when Bill began planning his retirement. “He wanted to be somewhere besides Wyoming during hunting season,” his wife laughed. “I didn’t dream it would be clear to South America.”
Bill explained that there was a lot going on in their lives (prior to the trip) — among them were surgery, healing, therapy, graduation, a lost dog, moving themselves out of the G&F’s game warden residence and into one recently purchased, and helping their son move.
“I had always hoped to visit Kenya, but it wasn’t until Dee and I started the sponsorships in Bolivia that there was really any serious talk about actually visiting the girls.”
And it wasn’t until March 2018 that the dream of finally meeting any of their sponsor children became a reality.
“We started looking at the ‘Sponsor’ trips but they were always at times when his job would not allow it,” said Dee. “We found that this November (2018) trip was perfect.”
Compassion International arranged all the travel — hotels meals, transportation, etc. — during the trip. Dee said, “We just had to be in Miami for the flight to Bolivia.” The Robertsons paid a flat fee for the trip.
The group of 30, including Compassion volunteers, met in Miami and flew to La Paz, the first stop on their way to Cochabamba, an agricultural area surrounded by mountains, where they met their two girls and their mothers.
“We wondered if we would recognize them, if they would recognize us, but when they got to the bottom of the stairway,” recognition went both ways.
“I believe the girls were more fascinated about OUR reaction to meeting them,” Bill said. “Both Dee and I found we were overwhelmed at the fact this was actually happening. We had done so much in preparation and fretting over the visas, health requirements, travel arrangements and all the things that had happened over the last summer that we just felt a sense of relief when we were finally introduced to them and their families. Our emotions were right there on our sleeves. Both the girls and their mothers quickly accepted our warm greeting and desire to talk. I believe they were as fascinated in who we are, as we were in who they are.”
Dee explains that sponsoring a child involves sending money each month ($38 is the current monthly amount). After sponsorship is established, sponsors receive photos and information about the areas the children live in, basic info about the child’s family, and the student center that the child attends.
“We write to our sponsor children about every other month; we talk about our family, our jobs, our children, our church, our community and other general topics. They like to hear about our holidays, the weather, about simple things that are different in our culture,” Dee shared.
The sharing of this information was the key to recognizing the girls, the girls recognizing the Robertsons and the camaraderie that quickly developed.
(The story continues in next week’s issue.)