"My favorite thing to do at the project is write my sponsor," says Ana Lucia, pictured here with a photo of her sponsor. Ana Lucia dreams of one day meeting her sponsor in person and thanking her for her support.
"Look at her!" The taunts follow Ana Lucia across the playground. She ducks her head and lets her hair form a curtain around her face. She knows that the other children are talking about her. About the dry scales that cover her face. That's why they call her pescado (fish) when the teachers aren't around.
Ana Lucia vows that she won't cry. She won't let them see how much their words hurt her. She knows they will eventually grow tired of mocking her. Until the next day.
A Painful Disease
Ana Lucia was born with ichthyosis, a skin disease characterized by noninflammatory scaling of the skin. Without treatment the skin becomes very dry. Ana Lucia's breakouts were often severe, leaving her skin bloody and painful. Her older sister, Nydia, raised Ana Lucia and her four siblings after their parents left to find work in Spain, and Nydia could not afford the medicine her younger sister needed.
"It was very hard for us," says Nydia. "There was never enough money for food or new clothes. I wanted to help Ana Lucia, to make her feel better, but I also had to take care of the rest of the family too."
"My sponsor gave me so much &"
When Ana Lucia was 7 years old, her sister found out about the Centro Estudiantil Lluvias de Gracia Student Center (GU-909). Center workers told Nydia that Ana Lucia's sponsor would provide for her education and that at the student center she would have access to tutors, nutritious meals and Bible study. But Nydia was most excited that Ana Lucia's medical costs would be covered by Compassion. When she told Ana Lucia the happy news, the child could not contain her joy.
"My sponsor gave me so much," says Ana Lucia. "I am happy that now my family does not have to worry about paying for my school or for my medicine. The only thing that I wish is that I could meet my sponsor. Maybe one day I can!"
While Ana Lucia's skin disease is not curable, she is now able to control her breakouts through medicine and regular doctor visits. At the student center, her self-esteem has improved. The children at the student center don't even notice Ana Lucia's skin they're too busy arguing about who will play with her at recess.
After years of support, prayers and love from her friends at the project, Ana Lucia now knows that she is beautiful. She knows she is beautiful because her teachers compliment her shiny dark hair. Because her friends cheer for her when she dances in a school productions. Because when her sister tucks her into bed at night, she whispers in her ear, "You are bella (beautiful)."
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