Sarita Tello is a recent graduate of Compassion's Child Sponsorship Program. She is enrolled in the Leadership Development Program and plans to major in education.
It takes Sarita Tello 20 hours to get to Lima from her home in Magllanal, an isolated squatter village in the mountains of Peru. This is Sarita's first trip to Lima, but it's one she has anticipated for 10 years. And even the hours on the hot, crowded bus can't dampen her excitement.
Memories of Poverty
Sarita tries to nap on the bus, but the deep ruts in the road jostle her awake every few minutes. As she watches the fields of corn flash by her window, she thinks of Magllanal, with its mountain valleys filled with farmland. Despite all those farms, there is never enough to eat. Malnourished children often sneak beans and bananas before they are chased off.
Hunger is something Sarita understands. Her father died when she was a child, and her mother left the little girl with her grandmother. While Sarita's grandmother worked hard to care for her granddaughter, there was never enough money or food. An unemployment rate of 70 percent meant job competition was high and an elderly woman had an even more difficult time finding work.
Discovering a Dream
The bus slows as they pass through a small town, and Sarita smiles at a familiar sight: a small wooden church. It reminds her of the reason for this long-awaited trip. Iglesia del Nazareno was one of only two Christian churches in Magllanal, and it was there that 8-year-old Sarita and her grandmother discovered the Amigos de Jesus Student Center (PE-205), a Compassion-assisted child development center. Sarita was registered, and soon she was a regular attendee of the after-school programs.
Project workers saw that Sarita was a bright student and had the potential to be a gifted leader, and they worked to nurture her gifts. As she grew into a teen, Sarita began teaching Sunday school and tutoring younger children at the center. When she shared her dream of one day being a teacher, her sponsors and the project workers encouraged her to study for university entrance exams and to apply for Compassion's Leadership Development Program (LDP). And they celebrated each accomplishment with her. Slowly, Sarita began to believe that her dreams could become reality.
"Gives Hope to All children."
Sarita cranes her neck as the bus pulls into Lima, amid tall buildings and miles of pavement. She steps off the bus, consults a map in her hand, then hurries down the crowded sidewalk to a large brick building, where she is greeted by dozens of chattering teens other Compassion graduates from across Peru.
"Sarita!" comes a cry from the back of the room as Samuel, her project facilitator, walks toward her. He helps her slip a black gown over her clothes and gently places a tasseled cap on her head. Samuel then puts a piece of paper into her hand. "Look at the back," he says with a wide grin. Sarita flips the graduation program over, and printed on the back she sees a poem she wrote summing up her 10 years with Compassion. Even as Sarita rushes to find her place among her friends, the last stanza of her poem echoes in her mind:
"Compassion International & gives happiness to those who are sad, Gives love to those who need it, Gives hope to all children. All this, and much more, Is Compassion."
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