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Last time you were here, you were looking to help vulnerable children and families. Your support can save and change lives.

Maria Elena (pictured above) was born in rural Mexico and became a ChildFund Mexico sponsor child shortly after. Her parents were struggling to make ends meet and knew that sponsorship would help give their young daughter a stronger start to life. However, as years went on, Maria Elena and her family have been able to benefit in many more ways, including 20 years of sponsorship, which has developed into a special friendship.

“As I was an infant when I was first sponsored, I wasn’t able to respond to my sponsor’s early letters, so my sisters wrote the answers for me! But as time went on, I was able to write to him directly, and we wrote every two months. He sent me letters, postcards and Christmas cards,” says Maria Elena.

When Maria Elena was going through elementary school, her sponsor would regularly send her letters, which always made her feel happy.

“Despite the distance, he never forgot us and in his letters he always asked about my family and how I was doing in school. It was very exciting for me because although we had never met, it felt great to have somebody showing such interest in me.”

Even after Maria Elena started high school, she and her sponsor continued to exchange letters and they shared ideas about her plans for the future.

“At that time, he told me that he was going to keep on sponsoring me for as long as I was engaged in ChildFund’s activities and in my studies, as far as I wanted to go. That excited me so much, because since I was a little girl, my dream was to have a career,” she explains.

“He always sent me words like ‘yes, you can’ or ‘go on’ and that helped me to keep going, because each letter encouraged me to go one step further. My sponsor always motivated me to not give up and this is how I fulfilled my dream.”

Through her participation in different ChildFund program activities, and with the caring support of her sponsor, Maria Elena has been able to fulfil her dream of completing her studies, and establishing a career in Biology. She is one of the many child success stories to emerge from sponsorship.

She expressed that she could not have achieved this without the encouragement from her parents, all who work for ChildFund, and most of all the person who decided to support a child in need.

Maria Elena says her experience shows how child sponsors are helping defeat child poverty in Mexico.

“It is the best thing that ever happened in my life, so I appreciate my sponsor`s trust in me and his support without expecting anything in return. For that, I’m really grateful,” says Maria Elena.

“This is why I invite all sponsors to write to their sponsored child; because a simple letter or photograph is exciting for us as children, and brings us the best feelings and joy, and also motivation to keep going.”

A small public school in the Sierra Norte region of Puebla, Mexico, recently won a prestigious state award for its organic garden, which has produced much more than fruits and vegetables; it has also taught the community about nutrition, agricultural practices and improved entrepreneurship.

In a program supported by ChildFund, the school’s garden helps students to learn not only about nutrition and agriculture, but also their indigenous heritage. In Mexico’s northern highlands, much of the population is indigenous, and the program encourages students to talk about gardening, recipes and nutrition with their parents and grandparents in their native language, Nahuatl.

Maria Isabel, 15, has been heavily involved in the project since day one. She was chosen to represent her school in a state held ceremony, where the principal, teachers and students of the school were recognized for their innovative garden.

“With programs like the school garden, a new hope is growing in the community, because we want to learn,” she said.

The garden has medicinal plants, fruits, vegetables, trees and herbs. Maria Isabel is able to recognise each plant, explain its nutritional value, recite recipes it can be used in, and remember how much shade, water and care it needs. Maria Isabel and her classmates also learn the names of the plants in both Spanish and Nahuatl, and recall their full scientific names.

Students’ families also visit the garden and are taught alternative gardening methods, such as how to use old soccer balls, plastic soda bottles and truck tires for planting, to save space.

The program educates families on how fruit and vegetables from the garden can make healthy and nutritious substitutes to their diets, like making vegetable pancakes with bananas and carrots.

“I had never had nopal cactus leaves with steamed onions before the school garden,” says Maria Isabel. “Now they are my favourite and they are rich in Vitamin A.”

Family members can take home some of the produce and are also encouraged to diversify their own gardens from the typical focus on rice and oranges. Furthermore families are beginning to sell surplus produce in roadside stalls, which supplements their incomes and benefits their neighbours and relatives.

The school has even started baking goods with ingredients from their garden and hopes that they will continue to shape a brighter future for their small community.