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Making a Difference in Central America



In the community of Apopa in San Salvador, many hard-working parents wake up early and go to work to bring home the daily bread to their families’ table. That was the case for Johana Menjivar, a single mom with two children living there in an urban-poor area, where she had many different jobs to help her children and her own mother who also lives with them.

In February 2018, after a whole year of running fevers and feeling weak to the point of not being able to dress by herself, she made the decision to go to the doctor. She recalls that hard moment with tears and disappointment, “When the doctor told me I had HIV, I didn’t want to believe him. It just couldn’t be possible, but it was true.”

She explains, “I had to stop working and my brother, who has been like a father to my children, supported me, my mom and my youngest son Julian.” After a month of keeping the news to herself, she finally told her 17-year-old son Julian about the situation. He was shocked and confused, “I didn’t know what to do but to pray to God who is in control of our situation and my mom’s health.”

At the age of 3, Julian was enrolled at the Compassion Child Development Center ES0715 “Iglesia del Nazareno El Tikal” church which has been operating in the community since 1998, welcoming beneficiaries and providing them support in the main development areas such as spiritual, physical, social and emotional.

Julian received is the opportunity of being sponsored, which in his words has been a special experience. “My sponsor has been with me since 2013. I get very excited to receive his letters and gifts, he supports me and during this difficult time, the words and Bible verses he shares have encouraged me a lot,” Julian says.

Julian smiles in front of a refrigerator
"... he supports me and during this difficult time, the words and Bible verses he shares have encouraged me a lot."

Johana feels proud of her son Julian because he has been responsible and diligent with school and his project attendance, “My son is very smart, and he has learned so much at church. He is not as rebellious as I was, he makes good choices and joined many workshops that have allowed him to generate income to help our family.”

Among the workshops that Julian joined are bakery and the most recent one called “White Line”, which consists of teaching youths to repair white line appliances, such as refrigerators, washing machines, air conditioners, and stoves. In the White Line workshop, Julian has discovered an activity that keeps him moving forward, “I like the things I’m learning in the workshop because I can repair appliances that are broken. The first thing I learned to repair was refrigerators, then I moved to washing machines. I like this workshop because it is fun and there is a lot to learn about.”

“I want to help my mom and make her proud as much as possible, I want to see her well and happy,” says Julian as he covers his face because of the tears. “I want my son Julian to continue studying, to be the architect he wants to become. I may not be able to see that, but I’ll be here for him, loving and supporting him as long as I can,” says Johana with a moved heart. Julian is not HIV positive, and continues to help support his family through his appliance repair income.

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Growing up in poverty, cared for by her grandmother and widowed mother, Hope was registered into the local Compassion center when she was 4 years old. She didn't realize just how important the center and its staff would become to her a few years later.

When Hope was 10, her grandmother asked her to go buy some coffee at the market. But as she reached for the door handle upon leaving the house, the door suddenly burst open.

“Five police officers pushed into our house,” Hope recalls. “They were shouting and demanding to know where my mother was." They had a warrant for her mother's arrest on charges of extortion, and when they found her, they immediately arrested her and took her away.

When the Compassion center staff learned of the arrest, they hurried to check on Hope and her two sisters, one of whom was also a Compassion-assisted child. Center Director Alma says, “The police had practically destroyed their house. The girls and their grandmother were in shock.”

Hope sitting behind a stair rail with her hand in front of her face
"I know I do not have the money to repay Compassion ... , but I can pay them back with good behavior and good center attendance."

Alma didn’t waste any time applying for assistance from Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children Fund, which supports children living in exceptionally hazardous situations. The fund can be used to provide such at-risk children as Hope and her sisters with food and other basic needs, psychological support, a safe place to stay or whatever else is needed to stabilize their lives.

Hope realized that although some people in the neighborhood judged her for her mother’s crimes, she mattered to the center staff. She says, “I love what the center did for us! They gave us everything. I know I do not have the money to repay Compassion for what they did for me and my family, but I can pay them back with good behavior and good center attendance.”  

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For almost 10 years, Denis lived locked up in a muted world, which blocked his ability to interact with those around him. Because Denis could not hear, he suffered loneliness, rejection and was bullied by children at school.

At the age of 9, Denis was registered in project HO0416 Your Kingdom Here, located at Life of Faith church. Denis felt loved when he started to interact with other beneficiaries who accepted him just the way he was. During Bible lessons, Denis’ tutor and classmates even performed plays so Denis could understand the stories better.

When Denis went through his first medical checkups, the doctor’s diagnosis revealed that he had a hearing impairment. The doctors concluded that despite Denis’ age and the severity of his hearing condition, he had a bright future ahead.

When Denis was 11 years old, the project staff took him to visit the doctor. Denis was clueless about the surprise of getting a hearing aid that would change his life forever.

“When the doctor put the hearing aid on my right ear, it felt awkward. When she turned it on, I felt disoriented because my brain was trying to understand sounds that I never heard before,” recalled Denis. “Once I got to focus on my mother’s voice, who was with me in the doctor’s office, I listened to her clearly and I burst in tears of happiness,” Denis said with a smile.

Denis smiles while outside
"Once I got to focus on my mother’s voice ... , I listened to her clearly and I burst in tears of happiness."

Denis is now confident about going to school, after he previously failed a couple of years because of his hearing impairment. He aspires to become a doctor and to treat other patients who suffer his same condition. Denis’ heart is full of hope and expectations because he learned at the project that he can do all things through Christ who strengthens him.

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