Those were the words of Ruth, the six-year-old girl I was sponsoring through Compassion International. Ruth was living in one of the poor barrios surrounding the city of Medellin, Colombia. Trapped in poverty, Ruth needed someone like me to help her survive.
"I was sad because my father doesn't think about my needs."
When I decided to become Ruth's padrino (sponsor), I knew that her father wasn't living with her, but I didn't know why. As it turned out, Ruth had been abandoned by her father and such abandonment had crushed Ruth's heart.
"When I receive your letters, my mother helps me to read them. I am happy for this. My mother smiles to see how I am happy. I accept your help. Thank you for your wish of being my sponsor."
Ruth took to me the way that a duck takes to water. Little did I know that I would become more that a padrino to her.
Ruth went beyond what was expected of a sponsored child. Her letters arrived frequently, and they were decorated with artwork that became more elaborate with each passing year. As surprising as the letters were on the outside, the bigger surprise was what the letters said In the letters Ruth shared every part of her life with me, the way that a girl will share her life with her best friend. In short, Ruth wrote as if I were the most important person in her life.
When Ruth was twelve, she did something totally unexpected, something that dramatically altered my relationship with her. Ruth declared to me and to the entire world that I was her real earthly father. To her I was no longer "Padrino (Sponsor)". Instead, I was "Papi (Daddy)". Afterwards, in each of her letters Ruth reminded me that she was my daughter, and she behaved like my daughter, too. One time she asked me for dating advice.
Today, Ruth is an adult. I keep in contact with her via telephone and e-mail, with my wife acting as interpreter.
On one occasion Ruth called me while my wife was away. Ruth knew that she and I wouldn't be able to talk to each other, but that didn't matter to her because she had called just to hear my voice. Later, Ruth learned to speak a tiny bit of English, because during one of my birthdays, Ruth called me and said in English, "I love you, Papi."
To those of us who sponsor children, giving love to children in far places is our job. Receiving love from those children is our reward for a job well done.
Ruth, from infancy to adulthood