Living with disabilities can be challenging for any young person and his or her family. But it can be even more difficult for a child or youth in poverty. Their families often lack the resources for even the most basic medical interventions or needed supplies. Plus, the stigma of disabilities can leave these children feeling worthless and defeated.
That’s where the local church comes in! Compassion’s program provides for children’s physical needs, giving resources like wheelchairs, hearing aids and regular access to a doctor. Then, support from tutors and sponsors gives children confidence and hope to see themselves as God does. For needs that go beyond what sponsorship covers, Compassion has specific funds to help.
Here are seven stories from around the world showing how Compassion empowers children with disabilities — physically, emotionally and spiritually.
Hope From a Wheelchair
Growing up in Mexico, Nelson was an energetic child and always up for a game of soccer, even though he often fell because his knees bumped together too much. His mother thought it was a simple problem and bought him orthopedic shoes to try to help.
But when Nelson was 7, his life took an abrupt turn as he began struggling to move different parts of his body. Soon, he received the crushing diagnosis of a progressive form of muscular dystrophy. The disease causes muscles to weaken, making mobility difficult. In just a few months, Nelson was unable to walk. In their financial condition, his family couldn’t afford a wheelchair. It was difficult to move him without one, so he quickly became housebound. Nelson and his family were heartbroken. He often asked his mom why he had this disease and others didn’t.
Thankfully, Nelson had been sponsored in Compassion’s program at a local church for several years. The Compassion center provided a wheelchair to Nelson, enabling him to get out of the house again and go to school! Nelson’s family also received counseling through the center to help them manage Nelson’s condition.
He says, “I felt very blessed when the director gave me the news that they were giving me a new wheelchair. I stopped doing many things and going to places I liked because I couldn’t walk anymore — thanks to the chair, now I can.”
Now 13, Nelson has stopped asking why, believing what his mother tells him all the time: that God has a purpose for his life no matter what!
“Every Small Victory”
At age 1, Gerson was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects mobility and balance. His mother, Rosa, had taken him to a clinic in their small town in Honduras because she noticed he had muscle stiffness. As a single mother with limited financial resources, Rosa was unable to afford any of the therapies or medical treatments her son needed. So, for the next two years, Gerson was unable to move and was cognitively and emotionally delayed.
But when Gerson was 3, Rosa learned of the Compassion program offered at a local church and enrolled him. Through Compassion’s Medical Assistance Fund, Rosa is now able to make the two-hour trip for Gerson to receive therapy several times a month. He has regained mobility in his hands and can sit up by himself! He has also made progress cognitively emotionally with the help of tutors at his Compassion center. Now, Gerson’s eyes light up when he hears that he is going to the center.
Rosa also receives support from someone else in Gerson’s life — his sponsor in the U.S., who also has a child with cerebral palsy. Rosa keeps each letter her son’s sponsor sends so she can reread them for encouragement. Rosa has so much hope for her son now: “My heart rejoices to see Gerson making progress little by little. We still have a long way ahead because he cannot walk [or] talk yet, but every small victory counts for both of us.”
“He Is My Strength”
Rebeca had a healthy childhood in Bolivia until age 6, when she was diagnosed with diabetes. At age 11, she stopped responding to treatment and had to constantly monitor her blood sugar levels. She had to be admitted to the hospital 16 times that year and was unable to attend school regularly. Her classmates didn’t want to be with her since they thought they could catch her condition, and she wanted to quit school. Rebeca’s mom, Felicidad, had to leave her job because of the constant care needed to manage her daughter’s condition.
But Rebeca was sponsored in Compassion’s program at her local church! Soon half of Rebeca’s monthly treatment costs, which her family could no longer afford on their own, were being covered. Her diabetes is now under control! With the encouragement of the center staff, Rebeca did not quit school and is the second-best student now. Her friends accept her condition.
“The center staff and my friends encourage me. They say I will be fine. Even though I would like to grow and develop more because I remain small, I know God is with me. He will never leave me. He is my strength.”
At age 12, Nadia collapsed while at home. She was unconscious and struggling to breathe. Her concerned mother immediately called her Compassion project coordinator, Yohana, and they both rushed Nadia to the local clinic in their Indonesian village. When the clinic couldn’t do anything, they had to make the eight-hour trip to a bigger hospital, where Nadia received a diagnosis of rheumatic heart disease. This means that Nadia has damaged heart valves, which can become too weak to pump oxygen to her brain. She needs medication, extra oxygen and regular checkups at the hospital until at least age 25. In Indonesia, usually only those who are rich can receive this kind of care.
Nadia’s Compassion center is helping to change that! They are providing emergency support for Nadia’s ongoing treatment, and they even paid for an oxygen tank at home to prevent some hospital visits. Nadia is doing better with treatment, though she cannot be cured, and she is one of the top five students at her school. Nadia’s mother, Yulianti, describes why they’re thankful for Compassion:
“I’m glad that through Compassion, my daughter is getting good treatment in a hospital, but I also worry about her condition. Her disease can attack her anytime without warning. If Nadia was not registered in the Compassion center, I don’t know what would happen with her.”
“Timely and Necessary”
Wisdom was born prematurely and experienced developmental delays. His mother, Gladys, visited many hospitals over several years before doctors diagnosed Wisdom with Down syndrome and said he had multiple holes in his heart. Because Gladys had to care for him around the clock, she couldn’t work a steady job. As a single mother, she already struggled to afford the most basic things. A medical bill was the last straw.
Gladys went to her pastor for help, and she was told that her now-6-year-old son could be registered at a nearby church in the Compassion program. This changed everything!
“Words cannot describe the relief that Compassion brought to my life,” Gladys says. “They took over everything, all the medical bills and food. But for me, the emotional and spiritual support I received was so timely and necessary.”
Before Wisdom joined Compassion’s program, he couldn’t even walk very far with stopping to rest, and no school would enroll him because of his disabilities. Thanks to his sponsor and those who give to meet children’s critical needs, Wisdom underwent heart surgery when he was 8 to repair the holes in his heart. Now he is running and playing without getting exhausted. The local church was there for Wisdom and Gladys when they needed it most — and without the support of Compassion’s program, Wisdom might not be alive today.
Loud and Clear
Growing up, Harishan’s parents noticed that he couldn’t hear as well as his siblings. When he was 10 years old, he came home one day crying because he couldn’t hear his teachers at school. Eventually, his mother, Hema, would not let him leave the house alone for fear he would not hear a vehicle behind him and be hit. Hearing aids would help, but they were far too expensive for his family.
But Harishan had enrolled in Compassion’s program in Sri Lanka at age 7. When his local Compassion center learned of his situation, they took over the costs for the hearing aids and transportation to doctor visits for Harishan with critical intervention funding! Now he hears much better.
As his mother says, “Now I have peace in my heart and am not worried every time my son is out alone. This has been a huge blessing and I am very thankful.”
Alone No More
Jesús was abandoned by his mother as a 2-month-old, so his grandmother, Rosa, took over his care, raising him as her son. After a few months, she noticed Jesús still had not gained any weight, so she took him to a hospital near their home in Ecuador. He was diagnosed with a heart anomaly that required an immediate diet change and expensive medication. Rosa, a widow, was making $3-5 a day, and one of the medications cost $100 per tablet.
That’s when his local church came into the picture! After their pastor visited, Jesús was enrolled in the Compassion program. They quickly took over the bills for his special diet, checkups, medications and other treatments. Jesús is now showing improvement and is stable, though because of his condition he can still get out of breath easily. He enjoys playing with his friends at the center, and he is happy despite his condition.
Because of the help Jesús received, Rosa became a Christian and attends church regularly. Thanks to his local church — and Compassion sponsors and donors — Jesús and Rosa have hope for the future!
The beauty of the Compassion program is the holistic care children receive. They receive help physically, emotionally and mentally. No aspect of a child’s life is left out. Compassion’s care for children with disabilities around the world shows this clearly. We care because Christ does!
You can join us in this mission when you sponsor a child with disabilities!
International photography and reporting by Vera Aurima, Odessa B, Nico Benalcazar, Rachael Cudjoe-Yevu, Juana Ordonez Martinez, Galia Oropeza and Daniela Velasco.