The love of Zoila's sponsor has illuminated the Word of God and Jesus' love for her.
Tamahu, Alta Verapaz, is a small town in the Polochic valley of Guatemala. The state of Alta Verapaz is considered one of the areas in most need in Guatemala. More than 88 percent of the Tamahu population lives in poverty and 38 percent lives in extreme poverty. Many homes have dirt floors, no running water or bathrooms, and sometimes no electricity.
Tamahu is surrounded by small villages, green mountains, sparkling rivers, and picturesque cornfields. It is a secluded corner of the world that gives shelter to a very hospitable people: the indigenous Q'eqchi'. This is also the home of 6-year-old Zoila.
Zoila lives in the small hilltop community of La Libertad (Liberty) with her mother, Florinda, and father, Hector. She has two younger brothers, 4-year-old Ricardo and 2-year-old Angel. Her father is a hardworking seasonal farmer who strives to provide for his family.
The Life Zoila Knows
Zoila and her family live in a one-bedroom shack made of bamboo sticks and a few tin sheets, with a dirt floor. The little home consists of a kitchen next to the only bed they possess. The walls are full of holes. Whenever it rains the floor turns muddy. The house is also exposed to hill mudslides.
Every day Zoila and her mother walk 30 minutes into town, where she is enrolled in preschool and also attends Nueva Vida (New Life) Student Center, a Compassion-assisted center serving 422 registered children.
"Zoila has been coming to the student center for three years now," says center Director Roberto Chaj. "She is a very happy child, responsible, and likes to participate in class."
Zoila has been learning about God and His Word.
"She enjoys telling us about the songs and Bible verses she learns at the student center," says her mother, Florinda.
"My favorite verse is, 'The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.' Psalm 23:1," says Zoila. She also learns good health practices, and the student center has prepared her for attending school.
Sponsorship, a Gateway to Hope
One of the most important blessings that Zoila has received is her sponsors.
"They have been a joy for all of us," says Florinda. Zoila has been sponsored by a family since her first year attending the center. She receives letters from her sponsors that make her feel encouraged and loved.
In addition to what this family has already given to Zoila with their monthly sponsorship and love, they have decided to walk the extra mile and bless their sponsored child in new ways. The sponsor family donated to the Child Gift Fund and the Family Gift Fund for Zoila and her family. These donations have changed and improved their lives.
Keeping Childhood Alive for a Child in Poverty
Zoila received the first gift from her sponsors the first year she attended the center. This fun gift would bring laughter and giggles to a very special child in great need.
"We took her to Coban, to a small amusement park, and bought her some toys with the gift. She had so much fun!" says Roberto.
Many children in this area do not have toys, except for those donated to them or ones they make out of things they find. For example, little boys can't afford soccer balls, so many play using cans or juice bottles as their soccer balls. The few toys that children own are old and worn out.
Zoila also had the opportunity to visit the state's capital, which was exciting for her as there were many things she saw for the first time in her life. Zoila used to be very shy and apprehensive of being away from her mother, but this gift changed Zoila, giving her confidence and improving her social skills.
"I think at that moment (when the student center staff took her on this trip) is when the change occurred," says Roberto. "Zoila felt more comfortable interacting with the other children and staying at the student center without her mother."
The next year, Zoila received a second very special gift from her sponsors: a corte tí°©co, or traditional dress. Most of the women only wear traditional dresses, and many own only a few. This was a very significant gift not only because it supplied her need for clothing, but it was also a token that blessed Zoila in this rich, cultural setting.
Corn and corn tortillas are considered the main staple of the Guatemalan diet. Tortillas are part of every meal. However, due to the poverty in this community, La Libertad does not have a communal mill to produce the masa dough for the tortillas. Zoila's third gift in her third at the student center was a hand mill.
"At least twice a day, I used to walk for 30 minutes up and down hill to town to go to the communal mill," Florinda says. "Now I use the hand mill every day!" This not only saves walking time, but also money since she no longer has to pay to use the communal mill.
Love Breaks Down Barriers
These precious gifts of love alone have had a powerful impact on the lives of Zoila's family. However, in June 2010, Zoila and her family received a life-changing gift a new home!
Her generous sponsors sent her a birthday gift of $25 and a family gift of $250. The family was able to buy construction materials to build a one-bedroom home, called a cajon. This new structure will not only be sturdy, it will also prevent rain from coming into their living space.
"We want to thank the sponsors for everything you do for our child and our family. We see the love that you show to Zoila, and we can only thank you with words, but we will be praying for you," says Florinda.
The family's new house will be ready in a year. They are still working on the foundation, and they need to add some wooden beams to support the roof. The family will purchase the beams and other materials on their own, since the gift has provided for the greatest part of the construction materials.
Once construction is finished, the children will grow up in a safe home that will shelter them from the weather hazards, and will provide the family with dignity. This wonderful gift will greatly improve their lives.
Sponsors, Thank You
Life-changing blessings like this are possible thanks to many sponsors who, despite the economic downturn, have found it in their hearts to give regardless of their own needs.
"In the name of all the children, we want to thank you for the gifts that they have received," a grateful Roberto says. "The children and their families are filled with joy. These gifts are born out of the hearts of their sponsors for their children. The student center staff joins the families in thanking you for the gifts sent to Tamahu.
"About 12 percent of our children receive a gift. Most of them buy essential things like toilets for their homes," he adds.
The lives of many children can be changed with additional gifts that bless their entire families. These gifts can be as generous as a new home, as basic as a toilet, or as fun as a toy. But no matter the gift, the children and their families will always remember the generous and compassionate hearts of their sponsors, who give of what God has given them.
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." This is Zoila's favorite verse, and this is her reality today, as seen in the way God has provided for her through her sponsors' generosity.
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