Students at the Cite des Jeunes Child Development Center proudly display their Christmas gifts. Tania, center, is excited to receive a new dress from her sponsor.
Christmas time at the Cite des Jeunes Child Development Center in Haiti is a season of celebration. A small stage located in the center has been transformed into Bethlehem, complete with a bright-eyed 8-year-old who plays the coveted role of Mary.
Tania takes her role as Mary seriously as she cradles a swaddled doll in her arms. Her eyes scan the crowd of proud parents, and she spots her mother and father, beaming in the front row.
"I couldn't stop the tears when I saw my daughter performing before a crowd with no fear," says Tania's mother, Nirva. "She looked so beautiful."
A Season of Joy
As a sponsored child in the Compassion program, Tania has learned the true joy of Christmas. While other children in Delmas set off fireworks in the streets, Tania and her friends crowd around as project workers set up a nativity scene, each clamoring to put the tiny Jesus in the manger. As other children tell their parents what they want for Christmas, Tania rushes home to tell her family about the Bible stories she has learned, stories about the real reason for the season.
Christmas wasn't always such a joyful occasion for Tania and her family. Her father's job as a driver often kept him away from home, and his meager salary was barely enough to provide food and clothing for his family. Christmas brought no decorations or brightly wrapped gifts to their one-room home. Christmas was merely another day to survive.
Tania's life changed, however, when she was accepted into the Compassion project in her neighborhood. Through the support of her sponsor, she now receives nutritious snacks, tutoring and medical checkups. While the program meets her physical needs, the letters and gifts Tania receives from her sponsor remind her that she is loved and important.
On the night of the Christmas party, parents and children fill the project with laughter and excited chatter. Following the Christmas play, little ones gather around as presents are passed out, and Tania, clutching a brightly wrapped package, rushes to find her parents. Inside, nestled in tissue paper, is a beautiful white dress. Tania fingers the lace and touches the smooth silk to her cheek. This is more than a gift to Tania. It is a reminder of God's love and a reminder of the other children who have no such gift.
"The gift I received from my sponsor is so important to me because it would not be easy for my parents to buy a dress like that," says Tania. "I also feel very lucky because there are many children in my area who do not receive anything for Christmas."
Each time Tania wears her Christmas dress, she and her family are reminded of the gifts she has received including those not wrapped in paper and ribbon.
"Compassion has done so much for my child," says Nirva. "She has been given the gift of education and talents. & Compassion plays a great role in her life and I pray my daughter continues to be part of such a program for years to come."