My name is Soledad Agreda, and I am the Trips and Visits Team Leader of the Peru office. I have been doing this work for about a year and a half now, and my main responsibilities are to organize, facilitate and host individual sponsor visits and trips along with Elia Sipan, the Trips and Visits Specialist.
Our positions are thought to be some of the most exciting in Compassion. We get to go out a lot, travel on a regular basis, go to nice dinners and get to know many interesting people. It is true, my position involves these things, but it is actually much more.
With the purpose of giving a better understanding, I will describe one day in my life, but I would like to give some more information about me first.
I am single and still live with my parents and my brother. I have been working with Compassion for 12 years now.
Because I worked as a translator for children and sponsor letters before becoming an employee, when I became an employee, I started working with correspondence. However, my previous manager, who is now the country director, encouraged me to focus on sponsor visits as I had the skills of fluent English, intercultural experience and getting along well with people.
So I have been in sponsor visits since the very first year I joined Compassion. Besides the fact that I really like children and enjoy being with them, one reason I decided to work here is because I felt at home with Compassion.
As a result of my work, I have learned that I can do more things than I ever expected.
At first I did not know I could become a Trips and Visits Team Leader. In fact, the position did not even exist at that time. But as I worked through the years, I overcame some of my limitations (like not knowing Lima well; now I have a map in my head) and built my strengths (like my love for reading and history, a great help to answer questions and provide information).
Also, I have seen the faithfulness of God in the ministry and in my life and how He has taken Compassion and me beyond what we expected.
I believe we really have the opportunity to deliver children from poverty. And I still remember many years ago, while I was translating for a video, I asked the final question to the young mother we were interviewing: “What do you want for the future of your child?”
She held the 4-year-old girl, looked around the one poor room she called home, and seemed to think how trapped she was there, with a husband without a steady job, no education and the first of many children to come already in her lap.
Then she stared at me while she answered: “I want her to have a life different than mine, that she can study and progress … I do not want her to have my same life.”
So that is why we work. That is why I am here.
If I could tell you one thing it is that you should know how important you are for the children and how sad they feel when they do not get any correspondence.
Money means a lot, but emotional support and care is even more important for reaching our goal, which is what this mother mentioned: to give our children the chance for a different life.
Now let’s see what a day can be like for me.
There is one thing I can tell about this work: You will never get bored.
6:30 a.m. Time to wake up. The sky of Lima is usually gray and tricky. It looks like dawn, but it is not true. Time to pray and talk to God.
I usually do my devotion right before I go to bed so I have a quiet spot, but I still always pray before I jump off the bed. Today I added a special prayer for a trip arriving this evening.
7 a.m. A shower and time to ready my clothes for later in the night. I look for my fleece jacket, but I cannot find it. I ask my mom to look for it.
I have a light breakfast, something I am trying to improve. I take my vitamins and get off to the office. I am the lucky one who lives closest; most of my co-workers do not.
Lima is a huge city of 8 million people, and you can travel three hours from end to end, depending on the traffic. This is a something to have in mind to tell the sponsors when they arrive tonight.
Elia, who lives close to the airport, needs at least 45 minutes to get to the office by taxi. And she has to get her two children ready for school before she leaves.
8 a.m. Arrival at the office. Even for the small distance I have to make, the traffic was heavy.
I leave my stuff in my desk and run to office devotions. Besides our time with God together, this is a great opportunity to make announcements as most of the staff is there. We remind them that the group will come to the office the next day and that they are invited to participate in a special devotion time with the sponsors.
We already know that many of the partnership facilitators will be out visiting development centers, but we encourage the ones available to be there.
8:30 a.m. After devotions and an e-mail check, Elia and I talk and see some urgent things.
We find more sponsor visit requests. One sponsor is passing by Piura in the north of Peru and is asking if we can bring her child from Chota to see her in Piura.
I will have to explain that the center is located three hours from Chota town, and then they will have to travel by bus to Chiclayo for another eight hours. Then four more hours to Piura.
Since the child is little and the mother has never traveled before, I need to evaluate the wisdom of making her travel so long, with three stops and transfers to see the sponsor.
This time I say no. Of course, I am sorry, but it is not fair for the child, especially since she is too little to remember much of the visit.
I recommend gift delivery instead. This is a difficult part of my work, to help sponsors understand why we have certain recommendations for certain situations.
We need to educate and be patient if the sponsor does not understand right away. Sometimes it is difficult to let go of an idea. Some sponsors are very nice and really listen; others find it hard.
9 a.m. I receive a phone call from a child development center to let me know that another child I requested for a visit has suddenly traveled with his father to the jungle.
The center was unaware of this as the father did not tell them. I ask them to try to contact the child through an aunt who lives in the area and might have some info.
If the visit does not work out, it would be difficult to tell it to the sponsor as it is the first time he has come to visit.
Last year the sponsor’s oldest daughter came and met the child, but the sponsor did not. So I ask the center director to contact me with any news.
I tell Elia about this and she tells me about some other difficulties in her visits.
9:30 a.m. Time to send some visit reports. One involves a reimbursement, since the child traveled from another province to Lima.
The sponsor, who is a Peruvian living abroad, has been especially suspicious about the costs. She was wondering why we did not have the child come in the cheapest bus available.
The translator’s report states that the sponsor was very nice with the child, but still had a lot of questions about how the family traveled.
The mother and child were thankful as the bus was nice and comfortable and the hostess helped them when the boy felt sick from the altitude. I think it was good for the sponsor to know that since the child was coming from the mountains, he and his mother needed comfort because it was their first trip and they are not used to so many hours in a bus.
9:45 a.m. I get an e-mail from one of our global partner countries about my report of an unexpected visit.
In spite of all procedures and information to the centers, we still have some unexpected visits.
Sometimes, a sponsor decides to jump over the established processes and call us directly, saying: “Hi, I am in Peru on a mission trip and since this was decided last minute, I could not contact Compassion office in my country, but since I am here, I would like to see my child”.”
We always do our best effort to make a visit happen and we are often successful, to the point that one co-worker in Colorado Springs said that we have a “magic wand”.
Sometimes I wish we really had one. Like the day on which I received a call from a center in a rural area, and a scared secretary told me that a foreign man had appeared at the center saying that he was the sponsor of one child and he wanted to see him; in fact, he said that he would not leave until he saw the child.
The secretary had been in our training and knew that all visits are arranged through our office; that is why she immediately called.
Well, after many phone calls, lots of talk with the sponsor, who did not want to listen much at the beginning, the support of the pastor and the center director, who left a meeting in another town and returned to the church immediately, and the help of the translator the sponsor brought, who was not a Christian but happened to know the pastor and was willing to cooperate, we made this work.
I could have used that magic wand to get to the center right away to talk to the sponsor directly – usually it takes six hours by bus.
9:50 a.m. I look for one photo I want to add to the presentation I will make for the centers. Then I get to see some children at previous visits and smile. They are the reason I am here and why I work so hard to have great trips.
Watching the photos helps me to keep focused on why I do what I do. And somehow it makes the days easier.
I remember that my favorite part is when the child and the sponsor finally meet. So let’s make it possible, let’s make it happen.
One picture reminds me of the time in which one child did not show up on the fun day and I had to make all sort of things happen to have him and his father come in on an afternoon flight.
God has always been faithful to us and I know He will continue to be. And He loves the children in a special way so He is on our side.
10 a.m. Training with church partners that will get a visit from another trip arriving in a few weeks. We asked six directors to come, but most of them are late.
When I start 30 minutes later, I can’t go fast due to the fact that this will be a visit to their centers and they have a lot of questions.
I give them examples of what to do and what not to do and encourage them to ask questions.
They are very excited for the visit and have a lot of enthusiasm and suggestions. Great!
But still we have to provide several guidelines. For example about the food … which I will have to tell you about tomorrow; this blog post has become too long for one day. 🙂
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Are you still involved w/ Compassion in Chiclayo? Wes Stafford spoke at my church today in Texas and my church is partnering w/ Compassion to do a church plant and school in Chiclayo. I’ve been doing work in Trujillo for years w/ Peru Mission and would love to hear more about what’s going on in Chiclayo. My email address is — if you are able to reach out to me to tell me more about what God’s doing in Chiclayo. I’m looking now to see if I can come down in January to meet you all and get involved.
Hi Thor! Thank you for your message. I will email you shortly with information about Compassion in Chiclayo. God bless you!
Thank-you Soledad for all your hard work that made our sponsor tour to Peru last September successful. The sponsors never see all the details that go into our visits. Thanks for sharing some of your day and tour preparations with us.
Sole, YAY! She is the best tour leader. I had the pleasure of meeting her on my trip with Compassion in Sept 2011. She also went above and beyond to have me see my Compassion child’s project and home. She will forever be one of the most important people in my life for making that happen!
What a wonderful experience it was to be on the Advocate Tour last week. I am so grateful to you for all you do. You, and your team, are in my prayers daily! Big hug to you!
Thanks for all you do Soledad. Our family has visited our sponsored child 3 times in 3 years. Thanks to you and your staff all of our visits have been wonderful for all of us. I am hoping to come on the Advocate Tour of Peru in August and hope to thank you in person then.
I never realized so much went into arranging sponsor visits…but should have! After all, a simple birthday party isn’t always that simple…and everyone usually lives rather close and is from the same country!!! :o)
Like someone else said: It is reassuring to relize the childrens’ best interests come first over the sponsor’s convenience. I know I’d rather travel to my child than have her travel 15 hours!
Greetings. I found this by searching the site. I could not find any location information. I am in Peru for a few weeks and would like to visit a center. I will be in Lima then i fly to Piura.
Hey Dwight, I get asked often about blog comments, that people think I have made, when they must be yours (none have been negative). Would be great to know who you are and also maybe include your last name, so people know the difference between your blog’s and mine. So how many trips have you been on and to what counties?
Thank you for your sharing and reminding everyone to be concerned to children.
As you are serving him, may God bless you!
Go Sole! Go Elia!
Thank you for sharing us part of your job, you are right, children are the reasons for our existence in Compassion.
May God bless
I met Maria Soledad Agreda on several occasions while visiting several of my sponsored children in Lima. She is truly an amazing woman and blessed both myself and my family. Do you remember when I told David (your photographer) that I would sponsor him? I have lost contact with Fredy Medina Perez and wish I could contact him again. I sponsored him from 1989 to 1995. I am planning a trip to Brazil to visit my boy there and only hope that our guide will be as fantastic as Maria Soledad Agreda is.
Sole, you are an instrument in God’s hands!! May He strenghten and bless you abundantly as you faithfuly serve Him!!!
It’s a blessing to get to serve with you in Peru!
[quote comment=”10977″]Sole, you are an instrument in God’s hands!! May He strenghten and bless you abundantly as you faithfuly serve Him!!!
It’s a blessing to get to serve with you in Peru![/quote]
You are all an amazing team!!!
I just got to visit my children in Ethiopia, which was amazing! Thank you Soledad and all the other people who work to make sponsor visits possible in all the other countries!!
I found your post quite insightful and definitely agree with the other comments about your writing style.
Furthermore, I am thrilled to hear that Compassion staff strictly adhere to rules that have the child (and not the sponsor’s) best interests in mind. It is great when they overlap, but 15 hours on a bus for anyone is a huge length of time. It is great to see how you stand your ground in confirming it is the sponsor visiting and not a crazy person stumbling upon the center insisting to meet his or her sponsored child. Clearly, it is quite a bit of work to arrange visits and it can be quite disruptive to simply show up and ask for things to be made to work. Yet, Compassion cares about the children so much the project leadership dropped everything to reach a resolution.
I am pleased to hear that Compassion does not believe the cheapest route is always the best, as any child who has never traveled before needs to be somewhere that he or she can receive extra attention. I’m sure the sponsor would not want the child to be scared, upset, or sick of an hours long bus ride to visit his/her sponsor.
I always love to hear from the boots on the ground. We feel like we are right there with you cheering you on. GO TEAM!
Thanks for your work!!!!!!! I have one sponsored child in Peru so it was interesting to see how the process goes sometimes. And when I visit I will see a familiar face 😉
I have been on tours to other countries and was amazed at how much work they did. They got up before us and went out to get water and set things up. They would go to restaurants before us so that when we arrived our food was ready and waiting. To be honest I was a little embarrassed at all the attention they gave us. I felt a little guilty at all that God has given us and how much attention they gave us. We should be giving to them but they gave to us. Thank you
Thank you for explaining each part of your job – and the challenges you sometimes face. It reminds me that I need to plan well in advance and still allow for individual family decisions and the distances involved. I look forward to your next post (it’s okay if it’s long) and thank you for your work with Compassion. God Bless!!
My son and I want to come to Peru so badly to see the boy he sponsors. I hope we can get in on the next tour —
I really enjoyed that, and I really look forward to reading your next blog! I like your writing style, you put so much personality in your words.
Thank you for giving us this great insight into the other side of things. As I was reading your entry and all of the things that you did I felt sure it was later in the day. We are so excited to meet the kids we sponsor we forget about the culture and the things going on in their lives and all of the things that can happen. Thank you for your faithful and dedicated service.
I met Soledad in April during a Sponsor’s Tour. Her contribution to our visit was remarkable. From early morning on, Soledad worked to make our paths straight. To her credit much of what she did for us went unnoticed. It was only in late evening conversations with our trip leaders that we caught a glimpse into Soledad’s busy day.
Thank you Soledad.
Wow! you are busy, and you’ve only told us about the morning so far! 🙂 Thank you so much for the work you do.
Thank you, thank you, thank you for doing all of this! You are such a blessing to the kids and sponsors alike!
Maybe I’ll get to meet her when I (hopefully) go to Peru next September 🙂
well look at you Soledad Agreda. Great to know you are still making it happen
You have such an important job! May God continue to bless you and your team.