The Great Escape

The Great Escape

By: Adele Marie Berg in Peru with Brianne Mullins   |   Posted: August 06, 2009

LDP Student Overcomes Poverty and Abandonment

Isaura (above) attends university and studies to be a sociologist through Compassion's Leadership Development Program.

Isaura grew up in a small shack in a dessert-like area outside of Lima, Peru. Walls of matting surrounded a dirt floor and supported a plastic roof. The little home had neither electricity nor any sort of sanitary services.

Isaura's family has always struggled financially. After graduating from high school she found her dreams of the future limited by her lack of resources.

"I didn't have big plans for the future, I only wanted to earn money so that I could support myself and help out with finances at home to alleviate the financial stress that I have experienced for as long as I can remember," said Isaura.

Despite her expectations, Isaura, age 23, now finds herself nearly finished completing a degree in sociology at a public university.

A Journey Marked with Struggle

Isaura is the second of four children. Her father, who now has 10 children total, left the family many years ago to live with another woman.

After her father left, Isaura, her three siblings and their mother moved to the little shack that became their home. Living only a block away from a church with a Compassion-assisted child development center, Isaura and her brother were soon registered in the program.

Though only two of the siblings were part of the program, all four of the children spent three afternoons a week at the center.

"Before being registered at Compassion, my mom used to lock us inside our precarious house on the weekends before going to work as a maid. She did this to keep us out of any trouble we may have gotten into by playing out in the streets. Also, this way the house was much more secure from theft," said Isaura.

"One day, as usual, my brother and I locked our two youngest siblings (in the house) and went to school," said Isaura. "When we came back we were shocked to find that our house had been mostly destroyed by a fire.

My younger brother had turned on the kerosene stove to fry eggs and the strong fire reached the oil in the frying pan and then grew up through the dry matting walls and plastic roof, most of our belongings had been destroyed by the fire, it was so shocking I will never forget that day."

The neighbors had noticed smoke coming from the house and ran to break down the door and save the two children who were trapped inside. Because of a lack of water, they used sand to put out the fire. When Isaura's mother arrived home late that night, everyone was gathered around the destroyed house.

"I still remember my mother crying loudly after arriving at our house. All of a sudden my father appeared on the scene and my mother approached him and began yelling at him for being so irresponsible with his children," said Isaura.

The Limitations of Poverty

After that incident the younger children stayed with a kind neighbor while the older siblings were at school.
Isaura struggled in her studies throughout grade school. She ended up missing school for two years in order to help out with household chores and take care of her younger siblings. Once she began high school, things were different.

Isaura became an active leader at her local church and the local Compassion center which she was a part of. She graduated near the top of her class. The director and facilitator of the local Compassion-assisted child development center decided to help her further her education by paying the three month tuition at a pre-university academy.

"At first I found that it was quite difficult for me to keep up with my studies at the pre-university academy. Most of my classmates had been studying there for some time. Also, because I continued helping with the work at the child development center I did not have much time to study. So I studied at night and used to go to sleep at three in the morning only to wake up two hours later in order to get ready for classes," said Isaura.

Pursuing Success

After one month, she decided to quit serving at the development center  in order to better keep up with her studies. After the three-month classes came to an end, she continued studying alone at home for two months. Compassion staff suggested that Isaura take the admissions exams for the public university.

"Our project facilitator and the project director encouraged me to take the admission exams at a public university. I decided to accept the challenge," said Isaura.

"The day after the admission tests were taken I was quite nervous, so I went early to the university campus to find out the results, and found my name on the admission list, I was overwhelmed."

Now studying sociology, Isaura is supported through Compassion's Leadership Development Program, which helps her cover tuition fees and other educational expenses.

Through the program, she also has the opportunity to take different courses on varied topics relating to leadership. Her local child development center also supplies her with a quiet place to study when her little house becomes noisy with her brother and his friends.

"It has been a real blessing that Compassion decided to invest in me by paying the three-month pre-university classes that got me started as a university student. Now I am nearly finished becoming a sociologist".

Compelled by Love

Someday Isaura hopes to acquire a master's degree in sociology, a topic which she has always enjoyed. Ever since she was a sponsored child she has dreamed of one day working in or opening her own Non-governmental organization.

"I was the first one in my neighborhood to attend university. All of my close neighbors congratulated me on the day that I was admitted into the university. My mom is really proud of me, and because of this my heart will always be thankful to the Lord and to Compassion for having encouraged me to continue forward," said Isaura with a wide smile on her face.

Isaura's mother now works as a maid for a Christian family in a residential district in Lima City.

Her siblings are all working on completing their educations and her father, who began visiting the family again, accepted Christ when Isaura brought him to church one week.

"I wonder what my life would be like now if did not have Compassion and my sponsors supporting me. When I look back I can see that I have changed in my ways of thinking. My life has also changed quite a lot. My sponsor's letters are quite encouraging and always arrive at a time when I need a word of encouragement. I thank this couple for being so generous to me and always giving me wise advice through their precious letters," said Isaura.

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