United States

Meet RSM Pursue Your Passion Winner: Andrew Leonard


Janjira Prompinit. Hellen Aromo Omuka. Veerada Sarapat. Yanam Saewue. Purity Salama Julius. These are the names of the underprivileged girls I have supported or am currently supporting in developing countries. Children across many portions of the globe do not have access to everyday necessities that we take for granted such as schooling, medical care, nourishing food, clean water and a safe environment. The international statistics on poverty and child abuse are staggering. Young girls are particularly vulnerable which is why over the last 20 years I have chosen to sponsor and support females throughout a majority of their childhood and teen years. 

A peer-reviewed study of the organization through which I provide my support, Compassion International, appeared in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Political Economy and the results indicated that those children like mine who are sponsored through the program are 14 to 18 percent more likely to have salaried employment and 35 percent more likely to secure white-collar employment as adults. As a proud employee of the RSM organization my dream is that the children I support can also obtain meaningful employment that provides the same values and opportunity for advancement through the workforce. 

This study also concluded that those children sponsored are 30 to 75 percent more likely to be leaders in their communities and 40 to 70 percent more likely to act as leaders in their church upon reaching adulthood. The core value of stewardship and development is further evidenced by the study’s findings that sponsorship increases the likelihood of a child becoming a teacher by 63 percent. 

Lasty, in regards to education the study has found that the program extends the average length of time that a child will stay in school and increases the likelihood that they will complete a secondary education program by 27 to 40 percent and the completion of a university education by 50 to 80 percent. In fact, two of my own sponsored children have completed their high school equivalency education within their home countries. The ability to impact a child’s life by not only assisting in their physical well-being but also by advancing their education and employment opportunities is well aligned with the RSM core calues of respect, integrity, teamwork, excellence and stewardship.

Although my sponsorship over the past 20 years has resulted in the exchange of what likely amounts to hundreds of letters, pictures, artwork and other correspondence I have never been blessed with the opportunity to speak to any of my sponsored children, let alone meet them face to face. My Pursue Your Passion dream is for myself and my significant other to get the chance to visit one of my girls and interact with them on a personal basis. 

I cannot express in words what I envision it would feel like to meet one of my sponsored girls with a visit also allowing me to experience the culture as well as the challenges that they face. It would be gratifying to also observe the child development center and see the organization in action as it improves the lives of these children. Additionally, my goal would be to utilize the trip to not only meet my child but to also provide additional support to the underprivileged in the area. 

Depending upon the logistics of a pre-organized trip planned by the organization, I hope to participate in a “CauseTrek” which adds an additional aspect to the trip. In addition to the normal visit, these trips also incorporate a further fundraising component, requiring each traveler to committing to raising funds for a specific charitable purpose. Ideally, there is a trip to Tanzania which can be customized such that I can meet my child from Kenya as well as participate in the CauseTrek for this trip, which entails raising funds to implement water wells, rainwater-harvesting systems, the building of new latrines and in-home water filters benefiting children in Tanzania.

Although pre-planned trips are offered on specific dates and have a limited number of travelers allowed, Compassion International also assists in personalized trips which can be customized if a planned trip is unavailable. My plan is to work with the organization to raise funds for my local visit, even if a CauseTrek is unavailable. 

RSM takes pride in focusing on communities and operating in a socially responsible manner. I cannot think of a more socially responsible action than supporting those in the greatest need in our world and often literally clutching them from the grasps of poverty and providing them with a safer and healthier life and greatly increasing the likelihood of an education and gainful employment. It will be a dream come true for me to see my sponsorship in action with my own eyes and hopefully provide not only one of my sponsored children but their entire family and others in their community with some love and inspiration as we meet in person.