Home Away From Home

Home Away From Home

By: Brandy Campbell, with Karen Anzueto in Guatemala   |   Posted: January 07, 2008

Paola (right) with one of her teachers from the Tommas Cranmer Student Center. Paola says her teachers inspired her to study and do her best and one day she prays that she will inspire students of her own.

Paola feels like she grew up at the TommasCranmer Student Center(GU-804). Her mother, who was a teacher at the center, began bringing Paola with her when the girl was a toddler. For years, Paola dreamed that one day she would be among the dozens of children in one of the brightly lit classrooms, reciting the alphabet and learning math at the dusty chalkboard.

A Second Home

"Tommas Cranmer was my second home," recalls Paola. "I received a lot of love there, from the project workers and tutors even before I was registered. It changed my life."

When Paola was 8, she was finally registered at the center. Each afternoon she would rush to the project for the after-school program, where she would spend hours poring over her homework. "I knew that I had been given a special opportunity that most children didn't have. I was determined to do my best," says Paola.

Support System

While Paola formed close bonds with the other students at the center, she most enjoyed spending time with her teachers. "They took care of us. Every time I had problems at home, I came to look for my teachers, to find their support."

Another source of support for Paola was the letters she received from her sponsor. "My sponsor's letters were a motivation channel. They reminded me that somebody else cared about me."

Paola says her teachers' and sponsor's encouragement inspired her to persevere in her studies. It was this determination that helped her overcome the day-to-day struggles of poverty.

"Sometimes I would be so frustrated because there wasn't enough money for books or school supplies. But Compassion always helped us with that. When they found out that the reason I didn't turn in my homework was because I didn't have any paper, they would help. I always knew that I could turn to Compassion."

Striving for Her Dreams

As she grew into a teenager, Paola was always surrounded by children. She taught Sunday school and often helped her mother with her young students at the center. It was no surprise when Paola announced that she wanted to be a teacher. She wasn't fazed when faced with the challenge of saving enough money for college.

While in high school Paola earned her secretarial license so she could work part time to save for college. The center's staff has encouraged Paola by allowing her to substitute teach there, and her own teachers have served as mentors.

"I dream of becoming a teacher, because I saw so many hard situations children faced and how teachers helped them, so I knew that someday I would play the same role."

Paola knows she still has a long way to go until she achieves her goals. In two years she will finish high school, although saving for college may take even more time. But more important, she knows that through the support of her family, friends and sponsor, her goal is within her grasp.

"The student center formed in me a spirit of serving others and trying to give to others the blessing that I have," says Paola. "I know God will help me achieve my goals. He is the one who gave them to me!"

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