Empowering Children, Transforming Lives: An Interview with Sally Townsend on Her Recent Vision Trip

Are you curious about the experiences one can have on a HopeChest Vision Trip? Look no further! In this blog, we sit down with Sally Townsend, former HopeChest Chairperson of the Board and current HopeChest partner, to hear about the life-changing moments she encountered during her Vision Trip in Uganda and Ethiopia in Fall 2022.

During a HopeChest Vision Trip, participants visit several CarePoints to evaluate the potential for partnership with specific communities. At each location, participants visit with local leadership, learn about community assets, and the future vision of long-term change. Additionally, participants engage and interact with the children in the community, visit their homes, and immerse in the community culture to better understand the opportunities and challenges at hand. These trips allow those who are considering a commitment to Children’s HopeChest the opportunity to see firsthand the difference our unique Community-to-Community model can make toward long-term development!

In September 2022, Sally Townsend joined HopeChest CEO and President Ken Sparks in co-leading a leadership vision trip to Uganda and Ethiopia. Despite her long-standing involvement with the organization as a former Chairperson of the Board and over 13 years of experience, Sally was still taken aback by the many inspiring sights and experiences on the trip. The team was able to witness firsthand the effectiveness of HopeChest’s community projects, including local savings groups that empower individuals facing poverty to achieve financial stability, mental health and wellness initiatives, agricultural and animal husbandry programs that assist families in breaking the cycle of poverty, and small business development. Above all, the trip provided a unique opportunity to fully immerse in the HopeChest model and see its holistic impact on the community through visits to each CarePoint. Join us as we delve into Sally’s vision trip journey and hear her thoughts on the experience.

What was one of the biggest takeaways from your trip?

VLSAs—Village Loans and Savings Associations—are the secret sauce for transformation. These are micro-lending groups that teach basic business principles, enable community members to have accountability with one another, AND draw in hundreds of community members to the CarePoint that don’t have any children going there! Throughout the trip, we were able to visit with some of these groups and witness the pride that they had explaining to us how limited they were, how alone and isolated they felt, and how they had no hope for their future BUT after participating alongside their community members and neighbors in a VSLA, they gained: 1. Community, 2. Confidence, 3. Vision, and 4. Hope.

I could visibly see individuals in these groups tapping into their creativity, the way God intended. The VSLA groups turn on the faucet of all the God-given ingenuity, passion, creativity, and vision and all of a sudden they have this road map and hope that this can be actually done. Now they’re praying for each other, saving with each other, and going in on businesses together. It also solves a major gap of what happens with these young adults when they age out of the CarePoint system — they join a VSLA! I have never seen more of a multiplied impact from such a simple initial investment.

How did you see the local people impacted by the work of HopeChest?

HopeChest’s impact truly extends so far beyond the sponsored children. CarePoints are like hubs between these communities, and it’s not us pulling the levers, they are the ones doing the work and multiplying the impact. It extends so far beyond child sponsorship. VLSAs expand the reach that a feeding program never could. Even as you’re empowering kids throughout their childhood and into adulthood — the CarePoint is a springboard. The CarePoints truly reach into the communities through the VSLAs. There are countless businesses and micro enterprises at each CarePoint, and they present opportunities for children to learn different skill sets and alleviate dependency on donor funds. The best part is, these opportunities are accessible to ALL children in the community within walking distance.

What were you surprised about on your trip?

I was blown away by the community involvement and pride within each and every CarePoint, as well as the professionalism of the HopeChest staff in country. They have an extremely clear mission and values: professionalism and innovation. I was also incredibly impressed by the CarePoints’ approach to empowering their youth. CarePoint graduates are given a ‘Career Kit’ as their sending gift and truly invest in the children’s future.

What were some of your favorite moments?

Each time we arrived at a CarePoint, I was reminded how Ugandan Greetings are a representation of what Heaven must be like — their testimonies and transformation simply pour out of them. When I look at the life-change in the lives of thousands upon thousands of people, not just kids in our program, I am humbled and blown away.

What would you tell someone who is thinking about going on a Vision Trip with HopeChest?

I will tell you first hand: it is one thing to hear it, but it is entirely another thing to look in the faces of these people who you see that their lives literally have been transformed. We heard countless testimonies on the vision trip and undeniably their lives had been changed because of HopeChest in the best of ways.

Circular photo of HopeChest Chairperson of the Board.Sally Townsend is a former Chairperson of Children’s HopeChest’s Board. She is a leader and thinker committed to working towards sustainable methods to break cycles of poverty. Sally was first introduced to the ministry of Children’s HopeChest in 2010. When she’s not shuttling kids, you can find her leading worship at her church, getting lost in a good book, or adventuring with her husband in the great outdoors around their home of Salt Lake City.