Santiago stands with his mother, Maria, in front of the market stall she opened to raise money for Santiago's school fees.
Maria never complained about the constant care her son, Santiago, needed. Although Santiago was born prematurely and blind, Maria did everything she could to create a normal life for him. But as it is with so many parents in developing countries who try their hardest to help their children, poverty gets in the way.
Maria promised Santiago that he would one day go to school. She and her mother even opened a small stall in the market to sell chickens to earn enough money to pay his school fees. But not long after Santiago started school, Maria visited his classroom and was horrified at what she saw.
"The teacher had put my son in the corner and surrounded him with chairs," says Maria. "She told me that he scared the other children, and that they called him a monster." Maria was devastated. Yet if she wanted Santiago to go to school, this was his only choice.
ALLIES IN HOPE
Maria felt powerless to help her son. The crowded community of Chimalhuacan had no electricity or running water, let alone schools equipped to teach special-needs children. But then Maria discovered Compassion. Through Compassion she would find not only advocates to champion a proper education for Santiago, but the powerful love of a God who gives strength to all, regardless of their abilities.
Maria learned about the Capacitando Campeones Student Center (ME-927) when Santiago was 7. When he was registered in the program, he immediately began receiving the attention he had been denied in school. Center staff researched ways to help Santiago develop his other senses. They patiently read his homework out loud to him at tutoring sessions after school.
"THEY LOVE MY SON"
For the first time, Maria feels that she is
not the only one looking out for her son's best interests. Because of the extra help Santiago receives at the center, his grades are improving and his teacher no longer puts him in the corner. Now a confident 8-year-old, he runs and plays with the children who once called him names.
"When Santiago first came to us, he was very shy and sad," says one of his tutors. "But now he has a best friend here, and he likes to sing our Bible songs really loud!"
Maria never thought she would find people who love her son like she does. Eight years ago, when she held her baby in her arms, she wondered if he would ever be able to live a normal life, to have friends and go to school. Today, as she walks Santiago to school and hears his friends shouting his name, she thanks God for giving him the things she couldn't.
"Santiago loves it at the center," she says, tears filling her eyes. "He loves it because they do not push him aside. They do not leave him out. They love my son. And they teach him that God loves him, too."
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