Thursday, July 10, 2008

Life After Sponsorship

Mayra is studying to be a teacher so she can help others like she was helped.

Mayra helping other children

Life After Sponsorship
By Erin Fitzgerald

Recent sponsorship graduate Mayra Acan Set of Guatemala recounts the help she received from Children International. The soon-to-be teacher still cherishes the memory of her very first gift : a pair of shoes.

As young people around the world reflect on their recent graduations from high school and college, sponsored youth also have much to be proud of – their graduation from our sponsorship program.

Meet 20-year-old Mayra Acan Set, a 2007 graduate from Guatemala. Her struggles began at an early age. As the oldest girl, she cared for her younger siblings while her parents worked. When times were tough, she helped her mother wash clothes to earn extra income.
Today, Mayra is studying to be a teacher. In her free time, she volunteers with our agency in rural Guatemala. Here’s what she has to say about poverty, sponsorship and her goals for the future...

How did your life change when you became sponsored?

I have memories of receiving dolls, receiving clothes, receiving medical checkups, having my photo taken and things like that. It was something totally new to me.

How has Children International helped improve your life?

Children International brought me out of a tunnel. I felt like a baby bird. I was a shy girl, and I thought that if I spoke in public, people would laugh at me. The thing is that for a lot of people, we indigenous women aren’t anything more than inditas (a diminutive term for indigenous ladies) who don’t know anything. So since I had the program, people cared about me, and they supported me. I started to change, and that change was obvious in school and at home. I don’t know if they knew it in the program, but little by little, they were shaping me into a leader.

Is there a memory that stands out?

I treasured my first pair of shoes so much that when they finally broke, I cried. I don’t know if you can understand that feeling, but here you buy clothes and shoes in the market. They’re secondhand shoes that sometimes are kind of worn out, and that time, the shoes were new – they came in a box, and they had a wonderful new smell. I also saved the box for a long time. I used it as a piggy bank.

Tell us about your experience with Children International’s youth program.

Thanks to the youth group, I was able to make friends that my parents trusted were healthy friendships. We participated in field trips together, chats about youth, drug addiction and sexual education. I gained a lot of knowledge and confidence in myself during those activities.

Why did you decide to stay and volunteer with the agency?

I don’t know if it was because I was so fond of the program or to give back some of the things that they gave me. I think it’s a little bit of both. I like it when they ask me to make a list or help a child write their letter because it reminds me of myself and how hard it was for me. I really feel useful, and that makes me happy.

What are your plans for the future?

In the near future, I would like to work in a rural school, to bring free education to all of the boys and girls and their parents. But in order to earn enough and help my parents and my siblings, I know I’ll have to work very hard.

Reporting assistance and photos by Javier Cárcamo.

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