Every hero has an origin story.
Bruce Wayne saw his parents killed. Peter Parker lost the closest thing he had to a father. Billy Batson was raised in a group home. Right now, children are living their origin stories all around the world. Unlike the silver-screen superheroes we know, however, there is no ancient wizard, experimental spider or inheritance payout that will come along and make everything right.
But heroes, though they may not be super, still exist. And origin stories, though some may be tragic, can still bring out the best in us.
Vickie Thomas knows how tough origin stories can be. For many years she taught English as a second language to children from other countries. In cities around Texas, Vickie came to know and look after children from the continents of Africa and Asia, from countries like India and Brazil.
“Any country you can name that’s a free country, we probably had students in our class from there,” said Vickie. “I would nurture them. I would teach them. They would call me ‘school mama,’ and I just felt like they were my kids.”
Vickie explained that she and her husband never had any children of their own. At some points they considered adoption, but, increasingly, health and age limited the options they had.
“We had kind of exhausted all our financial resources with doctors,” said Vickie about the tough choices she and her husband had to make around adoption.
Vickie retired from teaching in 2015 but still misses the joy she found there. She remains empathetic of children’s needs, especially ones from countries outside the U.S. like those she taught in her classroom.
Her connection to and love for the international community has led the war in Eastern Europe, now in its second year, to weigh heavily on Vickie’s mind. Since Russia invaded Ukraine, Vickie has been diligently seeking ways she might help the Ukrainian people. Like most, however, Vickie wanted to be sure anything she gave would go toward a real solution.
“To see the people of Ukraine brutally victimized in their homeland, and also when trying to escape, has been nothing short of horrific,” said Vickie. “I had just a few students in the past who were homeless and lived on the streets in other countries, but they were not living during a cruel war forced upon them. The few I knew were able to move to the U.S. with relatives or be adopted into a family. Even so, they still had so much to deal with from their past experiences that they had lived through.”
By chance or fate or something in between, in February of 2023, Vickie met Dennis Parks and Jesus Rojas, who work at National Emergency Management and Response, a partner of CERI.
Dennis and Jesus were at Vickie’s house providing important medical care she was unable to leave the house to receive, during one of the rare cases of winter weather that left Texas streets iced over and meant some lost power.
“I really believe CERI is a worthwhile organization,” said Dennis. “I wish there was more we could do for them.”
Dennis is a CERI donor, and when Vickie opened up to him and Jesus, asking if there was any chance they knew of an organization that was helping Ukrainians affected by Russia’s invasion, they were quick to recommend CERI.
“We got to spend three days with her, so we got to know her a little bit,” said Dennis. “She was real pleasant and she has a good heart. She really wants to help other people.”
“When I asked them if they knew of a reputable and trustworthy charity that helped the people and refugees from Ukraine, they gave me an answer that I immediately knew was inspired by God,”
While Vickie only learned about CERI two months ago, she has already been incredibly generous toward CERI’s mission in more ways than one.
“I was able to give a donation to refugees from Ukraine,” said Vickie, “and then – THEN – I found out about being able to sponsor a child, and that was just icing on the cake. I was so excited.”
Vickie currently sponsors two girls, Natalia and Victoria in Moldova.
“I want each of them to have every opportunity available that will support them now and in the future,” Vickie said about Natalia and Victoria. “What a privilege and a joy it will be to hear from each of them, get to know them and learn how they are doing along the way!”
“When I learned about CERI, there’s just something special about it,” said Vickie. “I feel this connection about it. It was an answered prayer.”
Learning about CERI let Vickie see that everything she loved about teaching, everything she still misses to this day, doesn’t have to be gone.
“There are things I can do here too,” she said.
If we live in a world of parentless children, perhaps there are childless parents living among us as well, quiet heroes who are the Uncle Bens and Thomas Waynes of origin stories in the making, people who give all they have so that children might see all they can be.