Dawn Wheeler, aka The Child Sponsorship Whisperer
For ACE this month, we wish to highlight some of the behind-the-scenes people who make ACE great in the view of our donors, volunteers and all around supporters.
Dawn gets asks lots of questions all day long. We thought it would be fun to interview her as if we ourselves were calling to inquire about a child needing sponsorship in the ACE program. Perhaps you may find one of your questions in the following interview. Some of our sponsors are so loyal to their children that they probably already know the answer before Dawn picks up her pen to answer.
Interviewer: How many children are currently in ACE’s child sponsorship program?
Dawn: We currently have 237 children in our sponsorship program. When I began with ACE three years ago, we had just over 100 children in the program. Due to the dedication and hard work of our ground staff, the number of sponsored children has increased each year.
Interviewer: If someone is interested in sponsoring a child, how can they receive information about a sponsorship?
Dawn: Anyone interested in a sponsorship can download our APP on their smart phone, Google Store or iTunes Store. Type in “American Caribbean Experience” and download the app. Or you may go to our website – acexperience.org – and fill out the information form for child sponsorship under the “Sponsorship” tab.
Interviewer: How do sponsors communicate with their sponsored child?
Dawn: Sponsors may write to their sponsored child as often as they wish. All correspondence is hand-carried to our children by a staff member or volunteer who is traveling down. No Facebook, no text, and no hash tags, so letter writing is the best way to do this. That is also, by the way, a great way for these students to work on their writing skills. Everyone – including me – enjoys a letter in the mail from a sponsor and I know our Jamaican students love it too. And, as always, we welcome sponsors to come to Jamaica for an ACE mission trip, where we will make special arrangements for them to visit their sponsored children at their schools or homes. What a great way to feel truly connected – to receive hugs in person!
Interviewer: What is the best part of being the Stateside Child Sponsorship Coordinator?
Dawn: The pay is fantastic! (Just joking!) Actually, what’s fantastic is being able to share in the excitement of a sponsor when they receive a photo and information of the child that they have been matched with for sponsorship. God is in the details – like the time a child who said she wanted to be a nurse was matched with a sponsor who is a nurse, or when a sponsor was matched with a child whose name was the same as her father that had just recently passed. I found out this information after the fact. It is always exciting to see how God guides and directs in this process.
Interviewer: What is the toughest part of being the Child Sponsorship Coordinator?
Dawn: To inform a sponsor that their child is no longer eligible to be in our sponsorship program. The reasons that a child is removed vary from the child moving out of the area to the parents of the sponsored child not fulfilling their part of the contractual agreement (which they sign when their child is accepted into the program). Excessive absences of the sponsored child from school would be a reason for ineligibility. Our ground staff does a fantastic job of contacting the sponsored children’s parents by phone calls, home visits and warning letters. They give the parents plenty of opportunities to correct the problem before terminating a child’s sponsorship.
One thing I appreciate about ACE is that we come alongside the parents to help and encourage them to become more proactive in their child’s education. This is done through parent meetings and training classes that ACE organizes. We don’t just hand them a sponsorship; they must do their part. This is “tough love” but a love that is often necessary.
ACE is truly changing lives and transforming communities – one child at a time.