By: Junieth Dinarte, as told to her by Crisli   |   Posted: March 14, 2023

My mother never learned to read or write, but she made sure I got the education she couldn’t by enrolling me in the Child Sponsorship Program.

I’m the First in My Family to Attend School

My mother never learned to read or write, but she made sure I got the education she couldn’t by enrolling me in the Child Sponsorship Program.

Written by Junieth Dinarte, as told to her by Crisli
Photography by Junieth Dinarte
Crisli works on her homework

“Go to school,” my mother, Rosario, used to tell me when I was a little girl, “because when I was younger, I never had the chance to go. I want your life to be different.”

I live in a rural community in Nicaragua — a quiet place where most adults now work as street vendors or in agriculture. When my mother was a child, our community was much smaller. To provide for their families amid rampant poverty, parents commonly overlooked education.

When my mother was 13, she would take her mother’s hand and walk to the main road in the community, where they would collect tin and plastic scraps to sell. My mother always tried to understand the sacrifices that my grandmother made for them to survive.

“She was a single mother, and half of the time we were alone,” she told me. “My mother didn’t go to school either. Her parents couldn’t afford it. So, whenever I asked her if we could go to school, she would tell me that it wasn’t important because we needed to work to get enough food on the table.”

My mother’s story is not unique. Children living in poverty face obstacles to education such as hunger, disabilities and cultural constraints every day that prevent them from going to school.

The Start of Change

Even though my mother didn’t have the opportunity as a child to learn how to read or write, she was determined to give me the chance to have a different life.

When I was a little girl, she would take me to school and ask the teachers to explain to her the basic lessons so she could help me with my homework. But as I continued growing and my classes became more complex, my mother was unable to help me.

It was then that a tutor, Marjali, came to talk to us about the new initiative starting at a local church — Compassion’s Child Sponsorship Program.

My mother was so excited. Her words to me are engraved in my heart: “This will be a good opportunity for you to acquire more knowledge about the Bible, Crisli. They will also help you with your schoolwork, so let’s register you in the program!”

I was 7 years old when I started going to the Compassion center, and I was so happy to learn about the Word of God.

To our surprise, before the school year started, the center gathered our parents and told them that they would be giving us each a school bag, along with notebooks, pencils, shoes and a school uniform. For my mother, that was an unexpected blessing.

Crisli reads a book

I knew our finances weren’t the best, and I came to understand how relieved my mom felt because of this support. She didn’t have to worry about buying uniforms or school supplies and could now afford the bus fare and food for me to eat during recess.

While my mom has always been supportive of my education, I noticed other parents often saying that, because they didn’t go to school, they wouldn’t send their children either. My tutor, Marjali, and the center director, Greyner, are great advocates of changing parents’ mindsets when it comes to education. They have always said: “We want to change that way of thinking and help parents understand that education is a right and a way for their children to flourish.”

With their help, many parents no longer see education as a waste of time but as a way of giving their children the chance to seek new opportunities and open doors that could lead to a better future.

My Plan for Tomorrow

Crisli's center director, Greyner, and tutor, Marjali, help her with homework
My center director, Greyner, and tutor, Marjali, help me with my homework.

The center staff worked tirelessly to change our parents’ perspective about education, but that was only half of the work. The other half was helping us, the students, set goals and determine what steps we needed to take to accomplish them.

To do that, they have helped us fill out a goal-setting workbook called “My Plan for Tomorrow.” One of the most important ways we can achieve the goals we set in our workbooks is by continuing our education.

To help us stay motivated, the center helps us with after-school classes whenever we need additional support. This after-school help has changed my life — and my mother’s! Before, if the schoolteachers couldn’t help me, my mom would have to find someone in the community who could read and write. But now she knows that the people at the center are always there for us.

A Different Future

Now I’m 13, and my life is much different than my mom’s life at my age. Every day I take her hand and walk to the school bus stop.

Crisli is ready to go to school, as she stands with her mother

As the bus starts with a loud rattle and the smell of smoke that comes in through the windows, she reminds me that she wants the best for me. I blow her a kiss and thank her for everything she’s done, for the love she has shown me all these years — and for giving me the opportunity to learn to read.

Empower a Youth

a girl smiles at the camera

Sponsor an older child like Crisli to encourage her education.

a girl smiles at the camera