Courtney Dellafiora »

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Meeting Duangdao

I’m not sure words, photos or videos could ever truly portray or describe the day I had with Duangdao. If you’re not sure who this beautiful little girl is, I will explain. Almost 3 years ago I decided to begin sponsoring a child in Thailand through an INCREDIBLE organization, Compassion International. You can read all about why I chose to do this at the post that I wrote here. Ever since I began, I always had in my heart that someday I would visit her and meet her. Last year I decided 2012 was that time. I contacted Compassion, and after a few emails of coordinating everything, it was set up. I must say how extremely pleased I was with how Compassion handled everything. Duangdao and her family live near Chiang Rai, an area that is about 2.5 hr drive from the closest city I was going to be on my trip, Chiang Mai. I wasn’t sure how it would all work out, but Compassion let me know that they could arrange to have Duangdao transported to Chiang Mai for a day to visit with me and suggested we all go to the zoo together. BRILLIANT.  I couldn’t have been more excited about it all. I couldn’t believe how amazing they were to set everything up for me and even planned on picking me up from my hotel and everything. How amazing is that?

I won’t lie.. I was a little nervous before meeting her. Only because I wasn’t sure what to expect. Would she like me? Would she be a happy child? Would we have fun together? All of these questions ran through my mind as I got ready for the day. Then she arrived. I waited in the lobby of the hotel in Chiang Mai and all of the sudden she came around the corner and I immediately felt my heart flutter. I could not believe how beautiful she was. I have only ever seen TWO photos of Duangdao since I began sponsoring her. Compassion only has enough resources to update your sponsor child’s photo every few years or so, so I could not wait to be able to see her in real life. She was smiling from ear to ear as she clung to her mom out of feeling shy. Compassion arranged for her mother, younger sister, and a translator to be a part  of the day so Duangdao would feel comfortable and so we could communicate with each other since I do not speak Thai whatsoever. We hopped in the truck they came in and headed off to the zoo. They told me to get in the backseat and sit next to Duangdao… I was thrilled. I asked her if she had ever been to the zoo, she said that she had 2 times but had never been to the special panda area or to the aquarium. Well, I decided it was time she got that opportunity! We arrived and headed into the zoo. Duangdao had the map, and led the way. This child is so very well behaved. If someone told her to slow down or wait, she would listen immediately. The entire day she was on her best behavior and it was so easy to tell that she was such a good kid. Even her baby sister was a happy baby and didn’t fuss or anything. I was SO happy and so relieved to finally be able to see Duangdao’s amazing personality. She skipped, laughed, smiled… all day. I was so happy to be able to bring her to the zoo, a place she clearly loved. The translator would always have me and Duangdao sit next to each other no matter what activity we were doing. She would say, “this is you and Duangdao’s day!” LOVED IT. I felt so special and I hoped Duangdao did as well. I asked what her name meant, and they told me, “little star”. *HEART,MELT*— Seriously? Little Star? PERFECT. I asked if Little Star knew who I was, or what I was to her. They told me that she knows exactly who I am… I am her sponsor and I help take care of her. They said she has my picture hanging in her home and that she prays for me. *HEART,MELT* – omg! I couldn’t believe it. I have truly always loved and admired Compassion for what they do, but I have to be honest in saying that this experience has made me love and respect them even more. This day I spent with my Little Star could not have been more amazing and incredible than it was. It was everything I had dreamed and hoped it would be and more. Everyone, from the people in the states, to the workers in Thailand who helped make this day possible for Duangdao and me, were AMAZING and so very kind.

I loved my day with Duangdao. I love that she warmed up to me in no time at all. I love that even though we live opposite sides of the world, and do not speak each other’s language, that I am able to show this beautiful child that she is loved. By me and by God. I fought tears throughout the entire day. I would catch myself looking at her and really thinking about what I was doing for her. And how I was making a difference in her life and that she would always be taken care of until she becomes an adult. I cannot express what an amazing and fulfilling feeling that is. If you don’t sponsor a child, you should. It’s only $38 a month. That’s a meal at a decent restaurant. A small sacrifice on your part goes a reeeeeallly long way. I learned that day that Duangdao’s father makes about $100 a month. So the next time you want to complain about something, just think about that.

Thank you Compassion SO SO SO much for all you do for children all over the world. And thank you for helping make this day possible for me and Duangdao. I will never ever forget it. I can’t wait to go back and visit my Little Star again!


Seriously, could she be any cuter?

Her favorite thing we did that day was the aquarium. She LOVES fish.

So sweet as she feeds her baby sister.

This would be her feeding the fish a BOTTLE. No joke, the fish drink out of bottles in Thailand. Just watch the video below if you don’t believe me.

Praying over our lunch, sigh.

You know there was no way I was going to let this day end without having her pose for a couple of photos!

After the zoo, we headed back to my hotel and I gave her some gifts I brought.

And a few photos of me and my dog.

The nail polish was her favorite.

It was so sweet, she even brought me a gift (not pictured)… a sweet little Thailand purse!

Thank you God for such a beautiful child and beautiful day. Check out a little video clip from this special day:

  • JessicaAugust 6, 2012 - 9:01 pm

    She is a beautiful little girl!!!!! And you are amazing!!!!ReplyCancel

  • AmyAugust 6, 2012 - 9:07 pm

    you are so wonderful, she is precious, and this was tear worthy. thank you. xoReplyCancel

  • EvlynAugust 6, 2012 - 9:11 pm

    Omg she is precious. Reading that it only costs that little amount to sponser a child really is making me want try and do that. I could easily do that w what I waste on nonsense items. Thanks do much for posting this blog of your trip and your beautiful Little StarReplyCancel

  • JacieAugust 6, 2012 - 9:13 pm

    This is a beautiful story! I got teary eyed a few times! Very beautiful little star you have! You are quite a blessing!ReplyCancel

  • KristenAugust 6, 2012 - 10:36 pm

    This touched my heart so much!!ReplyCancel

  • IvanaAugust 7, 2012 - 2:47 am

    This brought tears to my eyes. Such a beautiful experience.ReplyCancel

  • BrittneyAugust 7, 2012 - 7:53 am

    LOVE this!! Really must have been an amazing!! She is adorable :)ReplyCancel

  • Mary-Kaitlyn HesterAugust 7, 2012 - 8:13 pm

    Courtney, Thank you so much for sharing this with us. The video brought tears to my eyes.. Such a beautiful story!!ReplyCancel

  • ShelleyAugust 7, 2012 - 8:33 pm

    I am in tears (happy, of course) reading this :) This is the most amazing thing you are doing for this little girl. Makes me want to do it too. Thanks for sharing your story and beautiful pictures!ReplyCancel

  • darwin leonardoAugust 7, 2012 - 10:08 pm

    This story gave me goosebumps! I want to eventually use my photography career to help leave a better world for my kids, even if it is one person at a time.ReplyCancel

  • Amy NguyenAugust 7, 2012 - 10:23 pm

    This is such an amazing and inspirational story! Your little Duangdao is so beautiful and I know you made such a big impact on her life! Thank you for sharing your story!ReplyCancel

  • Jennifer MitchellSeptember 5, 2012 - 9:05 am

    That is an amazing story. I had tears running down my face at your heartwarming generosity and wonderfull day with your Little Star. She is beautiful. Your photos are beautiful!!ReplyCancel

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