“It’s not like this kid is going to university so he can line his wallet as a physician in Miami and play golf. He’s going back to the oppression and filling a need he experienced,” says Janeen Ruge.
Ruge is one of 12 firefighters at Valley Fire and Rescue near Seattle, Washington, who have banded together to sponsor Juan David.
Michael Patterson, another of the first responders, was inspired to sponsor Juan David after a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit his sponsored child. “I was really impressed with Compassion and wanted to do more,” he says. When Patterson returned, he asked Ruge and others to help him.
As a team, they decided to rescue a struggling young man they’d never met in a country most had never visited — all to ensure that Juan’s mission to help others is accomplished.
The firefighters agree that helping others — rescuing them — is just part of who they are, so it was not a stretch to agree to sponsor Juan David.
Juan’s story of struggle resonated with many of the firefighters, who have experienced their own stories of danger and rescue.
“We see a lot of things on our job … so we understand need,” says Jeremy Elliot, one of Juan David’s sponsors. “I know we are fortunate, and it doesn’t take Juan to know there’s need. But there aren’t a lot of Juans out there who are doing something with their life to better it and help others.”
Elliot adds that coming behind Juan David is more encouraging than he thought it would be because reads Juan David’s letters to the group. Juan David writes about his successes, and the group writes back to encourage him.
Patterson keeps an album of all their letters and photos — including photos taken of him meeting Juan David during his trip to the Dominican Republic.
When Juan David graduates from university in 2014, the firefighters hope to add more photos to the album as they all travel to the Dominican Republic to cheer on his success.
For Jeremiah Mushen, one of the first responders, the sponsorship is a wise investment. “We’re not throwing our money away. This is a kid who writes us about his goals and in the next letters informs us that he’s accomplished them — and moves on to the next set of goals. He’s a determined young man.”
It is a financial sacrifice to sponsor Juan David, but each firefighter feels the investment is worth it. Matt Jung, another firefighter, sums it up: “It takes teamwork. It’s the way we operate.”
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