Cindy is a little bit shy but always smiling. Her mother, Ana, is a fervent Christian who wants the best for Cindy and Antonio, her two children.
Ana enrolled Cindy at the Generación para Cristo (Generation for Christ) Student Center, knowing her daughter’s life would be blessed, but she never imagined the reach that blessing would have.
The Majucla community, where this story takes place, is a poor urban community on the outskirts of San Salvador city, El Salvador. In the words of Pastor Rodolfo whose church runs this center,
“This community is a place where people live either because they are poor and cannot afford to live some other place in the city, or live in rural areas and decide to move to the city to look for job opportunities.”
Though most of the area is urban with paved roads, street lights, and houses built with bricks, many homes lack other basic services such as water and electricity, because they cannot afford them. Most of the residents do not own the houses either, but they work hard to pay the $40 or $50 in rent every month.
Most of the people living in Majucla are hardworking people, from women selling tortillas in the streets or vegetables in the local street market to hardworking men working in construction or as bus or taxi drivers.
But Majucla has a stigma.
Its walls tell a story, with graffiti that claims a territory. To think of the name of the community is to think about gangs. To grow up in a place like this is to carry the stigma that most likely a boy will become part of the gang and the girl will become the wife of a gang member.
That means most teens in this community have one of three futures: the jail, the hospital, or the cemetery. The root of this shadowy environment lies in one key element: broken families. This was true for Cindy, but not anymore.
When Cindy is asked about the best thing she has received from sponsorship, it takes her a while to answer. After a few seconds in silence, her eyes become watery and a knot in her throat makes it difficult for her to speak.
She sobs for a few seconds and says,
“I prayed a lot that my dad would stop drinking and would become a Christian. I never gave up.”
The beauty of Cindy’s relationship with her sponsors was the support of their prayers. Cindy had the confidence to ask her sponsors to pray for her family which was on the edge of disintegration. The support they gave to Cindy showed up through the letters they sent.
While other young teenagers in the community were joining gangs (where they could find a “family” for protection, a “family” to give them nice clothes, a roof and food in exchange for lifelong loyalty), Cindy was at church, praying for her father. One day Cindy wrote to her sponsors,
“I want to thank you for your prayers, because now my dad does not drink anymore. Now he leads a small praying group, and he is a servant at church.”
Through the years, Cindy has received special opportunities, including math workshops, computer courses and learning to work in a bakery. Because she could make bread at a young age, Cindy could provide some income for her family.
Cindy and some of her classmates receive a percentage of the bakery’s sales. Other teenagers and mothers in the Child Survival Program help sell the bread in the community, so the workshop is self-sustaining and a source of jobs for the people in the community.
All this has contributed to Cindy’s development and to her family’s wellbeing, but it was in the hardest hours that Cindy’s sponsorship was a blessing for her and her family. Soon after her father became a Christian, the family struggled again.
Wendy, Cindy’s tutor tells us,
“It was hard, because you might think that since the father just became a Christian, things would go well, but it was not the case.”
“The church has been of great support. Not just materially, they have been of great support emotionally.”
Since Cindy’s father did not have a steady job, it was the the Child Sponsorship Program that supported Cindy with basic things such as school uniforms and shoes, and also the family with staples during those times.
Cindy’s father spent almost two years without a steady job. Part of those scarce times he spent in bed, ill. The money from the bakery workshop and the aid from Cindy’s sponsor and the church helped the family stay afloat.
Things finally got better for the family. Antonio got a job, and now the family can cover their basic needs.
It is Sunday afternoon, and the whole family is dressed up and ready to go to church. Cindy’s father is one of the volunteers at church. They now look like the family God planned them to be.