Sapahaqui is a rural area three hours from Bolivia’s capital, La Paz. Here, ChildFund Bolivia is supporting a key initiative which focuses on the training of community health volunteers, also known as guide mothers.
Guide mothers are responsible for visiting parents in the community to monitor children`s health and development. They teach caregivers how best to support children, and also take part in community-wide health monitoring events, held regularly at the local Early Childhood Development (ECD) Centre, with doctors on site.
At one session in 2014, the guide mothers met Ingela, a baby girl. She was severely malnourished and dehydrated. Her mother Cristina had 11 other children, with six-month-old Ingela being the youngest, and she was very worried.
The doctor`s diagnosis was clear: Ingela needed medical attention in the city because the community health centre didn`t have enough resources to help her. Unfortunately, Cristina did not have enough money to go to the city to get support; and had been giving Ingela only natural medicines and infusions. With this information, staff took Cristina and Ingela to the nearest hospital in El Alto City.
The diagnosis: severe anaemia, malnutrition, dehydration and pneumonia.
After a month in the hospital, Ingela had gained weight. The family received support from ChildFund throughout Ingela`s complete recovery: working with social services at the hospital to ensure Ingela received medicine, treatment and a bed at the hospital.
Two years later, Ingela is healthy and developing well, according to the results of her last visit to the ECD Centre with her mother for health monitoring.
“Those days were so hard for us,” Cristina remembers. “I didn’t have enough milk for Ingela, or money to save her. I am very grateful for the project and to ChildFund for all the advice and support.”
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.”