Sometimes I get questions from sponsors whether their monthly contribution really makes a difference in helping these kids. I saw for myself the difference in a very compelling way today in El Salvador. Our CRF coordinator for El Salvador, Miguel Arguera and the Coordinator for all of Latin America, Esteban Valle, took me to the community of Jucuapa in the eastern side of the country. The 2+ hour drive from San Salvador was beautiful. The volcanos, valleys, lakes and forests were lovely. There were street vendors selling the local specialties…fruits, vegetables, coconuts, sugar cane, and even iguanas! Our goal in Jucuapa was to meet a group of kids hoping to find sponsorship in the near future. We were going to take their pictures, get their pamphlets built and then find them sponsors. We met and photographed about 12 children all together that morning. One girl in particular stuck with me.
Her name is Elena Maria Chavez, and she is 12 years old. She is in the 6th grade, but can’t seem to go too often because of dizzy spells, light-headedness, and some temporary blindness. But she loves school. When she attends, she does extremely well. The doctors can’t find anything wrong with her, but they don’t tell her grandmother this. In fact, they don’t tell the grandmother anything. We had to read through a mountain of medical results, X-rays, brain scans, EKG’s, etc. to build her health history for the grandmother. You see, her grandmother can’t read and can’t pay for good medical care. So she has to take her granddaughter miles away to the free clinic, wait for hours, and maybe have a doctor look at her child. The girl’s mom actually dumped her and got remarried to a different man from her father, who ran off when Maria was born. I don’t know why anyone would leave this beautiful child. She was shy, but beautiful. Our diagnosis? Elena Maria is severely malnourished. She is nearing puberty, but I am not sure what will happen because of severe anemia. I think her body is slowly shutting down. You can see it in her eyes. They are glassy and devoid of light.
I met another girl today that has a similar start to her story, but a very different outcome. Her name is Delmy Joana Aguilar. Delmy’s mother also left her with her grandmother soon after she was born. The grandfather and her father both left their wives at critical times. So Delmy’s grandmother raised her from infancy alone. Delmy lives with her grandmother so far out of town that Delmy cried the first time she met other children at a church service. The grandmother has no means of support other than growing and selling fruits grown on their small plot of land. Here is where Delmy’s story differs from Maria’s:
Delmy is the sponsored child of my friend Frances Palmer in Seattle. Frances asked me to find Delmy, take a picture of her and deliver a giant hug to her. I was able to do that for Frances, but I wish Frances could have met Delmy for herself to see what a small monthly payment actually does to help a family like Delmy’s. With that money, Miguel is able to deliver 50 lbs of food every 6 weeks to Delmy and her grandmother. Once a year, in December, he gives Delmy a certificate that she can use to buy shoes and clothing for school. He doesn’t give cash because he is afraid that the kids won’t get school clothes if the caregivers get cash in their hands. In January, she gets a new backpack filled with school supplies because it is a new school year for her. Delmy loves school. She walks about 4 miles each way up and down some of the steepest hills I have seen, and I have lived in Seattle! School starts at 7, so imagine what time this young girl has get up to do what all 12 year old girls have to do to get ready. Delmy does well in school. She laughs easily and enjoys the life of any poor, but healthy kid. She has hope, and she is amazed that someone as far away as Frances is, and who doesn’t even know her, could care so much for her. She says that sponsorship really changed her life. You can see it in her eyes…they are full of life and light. So yes sponsors, that small amount you send to us each and every month does make a difference in a child’s life. I promised Miguel that I would do everything that I could to find a sponsor for Elena Maria Chavez as quickly as I could. Maybe if you are reading this, you could be the difference-maker in her life. She will love you eternally for that. (UPDATE: Shortly after we posted this blog, Elena was sponsored! You can still transform the life of a child like Elena. Sponsor today!)