Despite facing heartbreaking setbacks, Marcela is pursuing her dreams of studying biochemistry in university — and she even received a scholarship to do so!
Today we’re happy to introduce you to Marcela, an exceptional young woman from Bolivia who grew up attending the Compassion program in her community. Her life has not been an easy one, but she has overcome every obstacle — even the really big ones. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves though. We’ll start from the beginning.
Seven-year-old Marcela stood in front of a camera with tears running down her face. She wore a green dress. It was her first day at the local church-based child development center, and she was afraid. Marcela was a shy child. She often struggled to connect with other children.
Marcela’s mother was a hardworking woman. As a single mother, she got up each day at 3 a.m. to start work. But despite her efforts, she didn’t make enough money to provide for her family.
“We didn’t eat very well,” Marcela says. “I was diagnosed with severe acute anemia when I was little. Due to that, I had tuberculosis. … We lost all of our savings visiting several doctors because I couldn’t get better.”
Because her mother and siblings worked long hours, Marcela often felt lonely. She was left to play only with her imaginary friends.
However, when Marcela was registered at her local Compassion partner church, things started to turn around. Little by little, being part of the program lifted the burdens she carried. Her anemia was treated and her health improved. She received academic support she couldn’t get at home. And for the first time, Marcela began to let go of her loneliness.
“I received not only economic support, but also emotional, educational and spiritual [help]. At the center, the tutors strengthened my faith. They were always there for me, helping in every way,” she says.
During her time in the program, Marcela felt loved, cared for and supported. She grew to become an outstanding student. She particularly excelled in science. And, during her last years of high school, Marcela had the honor of representing her school, her city and eventually her country in an international physics and astronomy olympics.
After finishing high school, she enrolled in university to study chemical engineering. At that time, her family began to face challenges that caused emotional and relational struggles, and Marcela was affected so much that she was not able to achieve her usual good grades. Then, the situation and conflict-filled environment pushed her into a depression. She dropped out of university.
“I felt embarrassed,” says Marcela. “I felt a failure. I was frustrated, and I couldn’t go back to my classes. … I felt resentment toward [my family] for not being there for me when I needed them. I couldn’t continue.”
Marcela struggled with depression for two years. But, just as they always had, the tutors and mentors from her center remained by her side, supporting and encouraging her.
“I recall everything I learned about who I was, my identity in God, and how he saw me,” says Marcela. “All their words and encouragement helped me to move forward. Thanks to God and my tutors’ help, I decided to fight for my dreams.”
During those two long years of pain and healing, she decided to apply for a scholarship abroad — a long-held dream. It was a difficult process, but she passed every test. Her Compassion partner church helped her prepare by paying for English classes. And during her interviews, Marcela remembers feeling grateful about the confidence and skills she gained from the program. “I learned that faith, effort, perseverance and studies can take you anywhere,” she says.
The scholarship Marcela applied for is awarded to just one person in Bolivia each year. And Marcela won it.
Marcela was given her choice of three prestigious universities to attend in South Korea. By the grace of God, she is studying biomechanics at one of the best schools in the country. She has new dreams — dreams of helping others. And we’re excited to celebrate yet another amazing young woman who will set an example and make huge strides in the world of science and technology.