Alma is grateful not only for her opportunity to be educated, but also to have learned of the love of the Lord. Before she goes to bed each night, she reads from her Bible.
Growing up with dreams but no hope to fulfill them is common in the midst of poverty in Nicaragua. One young girl understood this reality well. She dreamed of studying at a university, being a scientist, and working at NASA. Fulfilling this dream seemed unlikely, until 7-year-old Alma entered a Compassion-assisted child development center six years ago. Today she is 13 and holds onto her dreams with hope.
"I was Alma's teacher at the beginning," says Norma Sanchez, the center accountant. "She was a very diligent student but did not talk much. The separation of her parents affected her a lot, but the Lord has helped her to heal that wound. Now she is a self-confident girl with great aspirations for life."
Many children in Alma's community, Ciudad Sandino, do not have access to education for varying reasons. Sometimes parents send their children to work washing car windows at the streetlight and begging. Sometimes parents just don't have enough money to send them to school.
A Harsh Reality
Child development center NI-121, Bienaventurados del Amor, is in a community where poverty prevails. Even when education is free and the government doesn't require uniforms, the families still often can't afford school supplies for all of their school-age children.
"In the community, there are many single mothers who work doing laundry and ironing, some others do factory work," Norma says. "However, none of them make much for the family income. A lot of people didn't finish elementary school -- the reason why they cannot apply for a better job."
Children at the center understand the privilege and opportunities they now have. Every year, each child receives school supplies so they can attend school. Children also have opportunities to attend vocational courses such as dressmaking, carpentry, computer skills, English, baking, music and hair styling.
Knowing that their parents don't have the means to send them to different courses, children take advantage of the vocational courses the center offers. Alma took some vocational courses such as computer skills, English and baking. Now she knows how to work on the computer, understands a few words and sentences in English, and knows how to make pastries, "although sometimes they don't come out good," she says.
"My mom didn't have enough to pay all the courses I have received here. It is very important to have taken these courses because now I can help my brother to do some work on the computer. I want to help my family and be part of the group of people who are helping the country to get by," says Alma.
The Influence of a Sponsor
Alma wants to be a professional; her sponsor has a lot to do with this because, in his letters, he always encourages her to study. "He has been of great help to me. Without his support I don't think I would have all this. I love him very much," she says.
"I want to be a psychologist because it is a social area," Alma adds.
Spiritually, Alma has also grown. She was baptized last year, and now she disciples others and teaches in Sunday school. She is part of the youth group board and helps in everything she can at the church and development center.
The impact of education has been positive as children grow healthy in knowledge and in the grace of God. "It has helped me to make an effort in my studies and to grow as a leader in church," Alma says. Other children expressed their desire to study to provide a better future for their families. Children are taking the instructions from the center to heart -- to look for a better life.
A New Future Hope
Changing the children's mindset from negative or poor to a positive and visionary is not an easy task. But thank God, He is doing the work in the life of the children, and now they see life differently than their parents.
"It's a blessing to see how the work done through this ministry has impacted the life of our children, to see that just a few years ago the little ones we had are now teenagers committed to the Lord, which gives me much satisfaction and confirms me that the work in the Lord is not in vain," Norma says.
"I want to share a Bible verse with all of you who make possible this ministry," Norm says, adding, "But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded." --2 Chronicles 15:7 (NIV)
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