As you walk through the hallways of a certain busy office in Guatemala, you can hear several people saying, “Good morning, Lety”, or, “How are you, Lety?” With a big smile on her face, Compassion alumni Leticia, or Lety as most people know her, greets every person who walks by. It is hard to believe that this same confident businesswoman was once a very shy girl with no dreams.
Growing up, Lety’s family worked in agriculture. They thought that going to school wasn’t relevant; instead they urged children to start working at an early age to help bring in money.
“Getting an academic degree was not important for my family,” Letty said, “But despite our limitations and mindset, my parents decided that I should at least try to go to elementary school.” Lety’s father graduated from middle school, and her mother only reached fourth grade.
A Shy Little Girl
Lety was 7 years old when she started going to school. She felt like she was different from the other children. “My father barely had money to send me to school so he would buy me a pair of black tennis shoes that could also be worn with a skirt so I owned only one pair of shoes that had to last me an entire year,” Lety said.
She would struggle to do her homework because she couldn’t afford to buy school supplies. “Knowing that my family had no money made me feel excluded from the rest of the children in school,” she remembered. “I went as far as not going to recess and staying back in my classroom studying because I did not have any friends.”
Lety’s mother was worried that her daughter wasn’t relating to children her age. She heard that three blocks away from where they lived the church Dios Es Amor (God Is Love) had just started a new program for children. She thought it was the perfect opportunity for Lety to meet new friends.
Breaking Out of the Shell
Lety still remembers the first couple of times she went to the Compassion Child Development Center. “I realized that we all had the same background. I didn’t feel inferior to anyone and it was the first time I was able to make friends.”
“After a couple of months of going to the center I heard my tutor yell ‘Lety, you’ve got mail!’” Lety said. “In Guatemala, we do not use the post service, so thinking that someone took the time to write me a letter made me feel like the most important girl in the whole world,” she said with a small smile.
Lety would read over and over the words of her sponsor Denise. She was a mother of three girls and she always told Lety about their adventures.
“Growing up in poverty, you do not get to have much fun,” Lety admitted, “So whenever they told me about the leaves changing colors or about the snow, I would imagine that I was with them having a great time.”
Having her sponsor tell her about her family, pets and hobbies made Lety’s confidence rise.
“My sponsor and her family always wrote how much they loved me and that they were praying for me. So when I was around 12 years old, I felt a great sense of responsibility towards them. They were investing time and money in me and I wanted them to feel like they were doing the right thing. I studied harder, payed more attention in Bible class and even joined the Christian worship group at church,” she said.
Dreams for a Better Future
Around that same time, Lety began to work on her “My Plan for Tomorrow.” It’s a booklet given to every beneficiary who is 12 or older. The idea of the plan is that children start dreaming about what they want to do with their lives when they grow up. The tutors receive a special training on how to motivate children to dream and write down their goals for one, five and ten years. Then at the end of the year every child does an evaluation on their goals and they decide if they want to continue with the same ones the next year.
“As a child, it was a challenge for me to think what my goals in life were when I did not have the money to pursue those dreams,” Lety said with sadness in her voice. “Because I am the oldest child if I ever graduated from high school, my duty was to work and help my younger brothers so they could graduate from high school, too. Nonetheless, my tutor insisted that I fill out the booklet and since I was always drawn into helping women and children, it is exactly what I wrote in my plan for tomorrow.”
Every year Lety would fill out her “My Plan for Tomorrow” and add something new she learned about her dream job and who she wanted to become. After graduating from high school, she learned about the career field of governmental law where she might be able to prosecute those who committed abuse.
“In my heart, I decided that I wanted to be a prosecutor who helped women and children in need,” Lety said. She quickly discovered being shy was not going to advance her career in this field.
“I had a hard time at first because the only places where I was outgoing were my church and the project,” Lety admitted. “I had to come out of my shell and interact with other people to be a good prosecutor, and I was determined to achieve my dream, so that is what I did.”
For more than five years, Lety studied hard and completed university with Compassion’s help. Her goal was to work for Guatemala’s Office for Abused Women and Children.
Hope for the Abused
“My ideal job had an opening,” Lety said with excitement. “I knew that there were people with more experience applying for that same job, but I prayed to God because I wanted to serve Him through my work. A couple of weeks later I found out that I had the job!” Lety exclaimed.
Lety works taking the statements of women and children who have been physically, sexually and psychologically abused. She is in charge of investigating and collecting evidence and convicting the people who are committing those crimes.
She has worked there for more than seven years and there is no trace of that shy girl who used to hide inside a classroom. Instead, Lety has become an influential woman not only at work, but with her family and her community.
“It is a great responsibility to be the first one in my family to go to the university. My younger brothers and cousins look up to me, so I have to be a good role model,” Lety mentioned.
Lety wanted other children to dream as big as she had once, so she encourages young boys and girls to plan and write down their goals. “At church, I am a youth leader for teens between the ages of 12 and 16 so I try to motivate them and challenge them to fight for their dreams,” she said proudly with a smile.
Our mission is that children are released from poverty in Jesus’ name. That includes being released from thoughts of defeat and replacing them with hope and dreams for a better future.
“The staff from the center and my sponsor encouraged me to dream big and God gave me the opportunity to make them a reality today,” Lety concluded.