Helping Someone Halfway Around The World Rewarding For Roanoker

Bhavani Kubendren (center) has been supported by a Roanoke family for over ten years. She and her parents have opened a shop named in part after that family.

by Valerie Garner

Roanoke resident Barbara Rousis found out about the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA), one of the largest child sponsorship organizations in the country, through St. Andrews Catholic Church, where she attends Mass on Sundays. That was more than ten years ago.  Now, the child she sponsored from the country of India,

Bhavani Kubendren, is a young woman who recently helped her parents open a small shop.

Rousis, who co-sponsored Bhavani with her daughter Mary, says the sponsorship ran her about $30 per month – and was well worth it.  They also send a little extra money at Christmas. “A priest came to St. Andrews [from CFCA] and asked for sponsorships,” recalled Rousis. “My daughter was 13 at the time and she said, ‘Why don’t we sponsor someone?’ That’s how it all started.” Now Mary is the one keeping up a regular correspondence with Bhavani; whom she would like to meet one day. “It’s been really rewarding,” said Barbara Rousis.

She doesn’t think as many people sponsor poor children elsewhere anymore – not like years ago when those commercials on TV often showed the faces of the young poor in stark black and white. The money Rousis sent helped Bhavani (soon to be 21) purchase schoolbooks and other supplies – and with the support of CFCA also helped Bhavani’s family open a small business. To honor their sponsorship, the clothing store has been named in part for the family – the name translates to “S.K. Tailors and Rousis Readymade.”

The CFCA works in Catholic Churches and other houses of worship around the county, looking for people that can financially support the less fortunate elsewhere. Those being helped are not just young people either: Barbara Rousis’s elder daughter Jessica sponsors an elderly woman in the Philippines. “You don’t hear about it as much anymore,” said Rousis of the program.

Rousis said at first it was mainly about sending a check every month to someone she has never met, but then there came correspondence and pictures, helping her and Mary form more of a bond with Bhavani Kubendren and the country of India. “She tells me sometimes of her family life – a little rough going at times – and always keeps me in her prayers,” said Rousis. Bhavani also enjoys the traditional Indian dances and has sent Rousis photos of her performing.

Now Bhavani signs her letters with “your loving daughter…and calls me mom,” said Rousis, a demonstration of the impact Barbara and Mary Rousis have had on her young life. “The letters are so heartwarming.” Bhavani has graduated from high school and now dances and sings along with her new venture.

“There are more than 400 people in the area of Roanoke and thousands more across the state who currently help provide assistance and encouragement to a child or youth in need through CFCA,” said Carlos Casas, the public relations manager for the non-profit organization. “Even a simple act can have a great impact in our world,” said Casas of the monthly support provided by the Rousis family for someone they may never meet.

See hopeforafamily.org for more information on the CFCA child sponsorship program. “I’m hoping to see [more interest] get jump-started,” said Rousis, who has found her decade-plus involvement with the program and Bhavani to be very rewarding.