Joanne Albrecht started with Chalice working as a donor relation clerk. Then in 2011, she went on a mission to Peru with the organization, which offers a sponsorship program that helps children around the world.
“I thought if I work at Chalice, I have to see what we do,” says the former teacher. “It was transformative, beautiful and it changed who I am.”
Chalice started in 1996. Two years before, Father Pat Cosgrove, who is the priest at Saint Ignatius in Bedford, was on the board of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA). That group eventually left, but Cosgrove already had what he calls “the bug” for helping children with sponsorships. He says he liked how simple and effective sponsorships are.
“Sponsorship provides an excellent way to support individuals,” Cosgrove says. “Mother Theresa says if you can’t save the world, save one person. That’s what sponsorship does. Sponsorship provides a single face, a single name.”
The organization started in a small office in the basement of a church rectory in Springhill. Deacons went to churches across the countries asking congregations to sponsor children.
Chalice now has its head office on Union Street in Bedford. About 50,000 children in 15 developing countries are sponsored by Chalice. Sponsorships are $37 a month or can be made with a one-time annual payment.
“I don’t think we ever thought about how big we were going to become,” Cosgrove says. “Relatively speaking, we are small. I consider ourselves still a small, little charity…that’s doing the best it can.”
Albrecht is now an international mission trip coordinator and takes other sponsors on missions to the countries where Chalice sponsors children. She says they are always learning stories of hardship and hope of the children they help.
During a mission to Peru, Albrecht and a team of 23 Canadians met Liliana, a two-year-old girl with a number of deformities who was in a vegetative state and had limited motion. Liliana and her family got support through Chalice’s gift catalogue program. Through the gift catalogue, supporters can make a one-time donation to fund anything from sports equipment to household items.
In Liliana’s case, the catalogue funded a year’s worth of physiotherapy. Albrecht says the little girl is now much more responsive. “It’s a totally different life for her now,” Albrecht says.
In Haiti, Chalice helped a young boy named Jamesley who was running and walking on all fours when they first saw him during a soccer game.
“It was wonderful to see the acceptance of him by the other children,” Cosgrove says. “Rather than picking and laughing at him, they totally included this person in their soccer game. It was just wonderful. I will always remember that.”
A sponsor from Chalice helped pay for an operation and braces for Jamesley. “It was wonderful to see the pictures of him in crutches to standing on his own,” Cosgrove says.
Albrecht says sponsors get a chance to be part of the communities and families whose children they sponsor.
“A lot of times, people want to give but they don’t trust the organization,” she says. “The wonderful thing about being on a mission is you see it first hand.”
Cosgrove says he often sees at the homes of sponsors, the photos of the children they are helping.
“They take on a child. It’s almost like their own,” Cosgrove
And when he visits children and families that are being sponsored, he sees photos of sponsors, too.
Albrecht and Cosgrove say they have both learned about the spirit of generosity through working with Chalice and its missions.
“Oftentimes people come on a mission and they brace themselves for poverty,” Albrecht says. “But time and time again, what people come away from those experiences is how overflowing the love and gratitude and generosity is that allows things to continue in those communities.”