Aura (right) has the privilege to participate in Compassion's Leadership Development Program, thanks to the faithfulness of her sponsors, George (not shown) and June Bianchi. Through the LDP, Aura attends a university in Guatemala and receives intensive Christian leadership training.
Let's face it: Rejection stinks. One time and your feelings are hurt. Twice, and it feels like something's wrong with you. But a lifetime of in-your-face denial would make it hard for any child to keep her chin up.
That's exactly how Aura Sandoval felt when her would-be playmates were told not to play with her because her family made its living from the city dump in Guatemala City.
"Even the drivers of the dump trucks looked down on me," Aura says. "I could have died when I was a child and no one would even have dug a hole for me. My body would have been just another piece of garbage on the heap."
Trashing the Past
When Aura entered Compassion's sponsorship program, she was deeply bitter and angry, especially at God. But caring Christians reached out to this little girl who had suffered so much rejection, recognizing in her a tender, if wounded, heart and a bright mind full of potential.
One evening during a youth retreat, 12-year-old Aura broke through her anger and accepted Jesus into her life. She recalls, "I could feel that I had a real friend who didn't reject me for living in extreme poverty."
From that point, Aura began to excel academically and spiritually. When she completed high school and the sponsorship program, she was at the top of the list of candidates for Compassion Guatemala's Leadership Development Program (LDP). Acceptance into the program meant a college education and the opportunity to develop leadership skills through specific courses taught from a Christian worldview.
Compassion's Ripple Effect
That was three years ago. As a junior at Mariano Galvez College, Aura continues to shine as a business administration major. Through the LDP's curriculum of Christian leadership courses, she also is becoming the kind of young woman who can bring genuine hope and help to others. She says, "I believe that one life can impact a community and a nation. I want to go places where there is a need for God and share not only spiritually, but materially as well."
When Aura reflects on her childhood, she adds, "Because I was born here, because the other children despised me for being from the dump, there is no one, absolutely no one, that I don't accept completely and unconditionally. I am very grateful to God for that."
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