"At the student center, staff members were my friends, my family," says Ana Baquedano, a registered student at the Joyas del Salvador Student Center. "They supported me and helped me learn to believe in myself."
You'll never be anything. The words echoed in Ana Baquedano's mind every day. She heard them in the morning when she put on her ragged clothes, passed down from her older sisters. She heard them in the afternoon, blending with the taunts of her schoolmates when they found out she couldn't afford books or paper. She heard them at night, when she went to bed hungry. What's worse, she believed them. You'll never be anything.
Learning to Believe
The reality that Ana saw daily fed her belief that she would never amount to anything. Her father had abandoned the family, and her mother worked long hours in the market for just a few dollars a day. Eight out of every 10 kids in her neighborhood dropped out of high school. What was there to look forward to besides more poverty?
When Ana was 9, her mother registered her at the Joyas del Salvador Student Center, hoping the Compassion-assisted program would bring Ana much-needed self-esteem. Johnna Moncada, a center tutor, still remembers Ana's first days at the center. "Ana truly believed she could not accomplish anything. She was resentful and didn't trust anyone. She used to cry at the smallest things. But God placed me at Compassion to work with little girls like Ana & to bring glory to His name."
Persistence Pays Off
Ana didn't transform overnight. But Johnna didn't give up on her. Over and over, she told Ana that she was a child of God. At first Ana shook her head vehemently she was the child of a poor mother and a father who had left his family. But Johnna's love planted seeds of hope. Those seeds, combined with the support of Ana's sponsor and the love of her friends at the center, eventually shattered the lies she had known since infancy. Finally, Ana realized the truth: that she is loved and valued by God, her friends and her family.
"Johnna and the others at Compassion have been my support," says Ana. "God has given life to a once-dead child. I now know that my future is not bleak. I have plans, and I trust God with them."
Eight years have passed since Ana first entered the center. In that time, she formed a support group for other girls in her community. These girls, many of whom suffer from low self-esteem, meet each week and support one another through times of abuse, neglect and rejection. But Ana says her favorite part of the group is when they celebrate. "I love seeing them dream about the future seeing them trust God, and to know His love."
"God will help them &"
Ana isn't done dreaming. As she nears the end of high school, she hopes to attend university and one day make enough money so that she can give back to her community and help other children know the love of Christ.
"When I am a grown up, I want to run a safe place for children in poverty children like me who never had enough," says Ana. "I want to provide food and shelter, but I also want to meet their spiritual needs. To show them that they can be anything they want to be & that God will help them if they will let Him."
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