Can you imagine not being able to take your child to the doctor when they get sick or not even having bandaids to help them when they get hurt?
That is the reality for most of the mothers that I met while in Ecuador. Brittany is a sponsored child through Compassion International, but when she was just a little girl she fell and hit her head cutting it open. Her parents did not have anything to clean the wound with or to keep it from getting infected. They said all they had was some hand lotion to put on her infected cut. The mother teared up just telling us about the incident even though it was years ago. So many parents do the best they can for their children and yet still cannot provide for their needs.
Brittany is now suffering from severe headaches and is losing vision in one eye. Her parents suspect it is because of that awful fall and the infection. They took her to a doctor but when an MRI was suggest at $380, they knew getting it was impossible. A good month of total income for the family is $180. Knowing they could never afford the MRI the family returned home sad and worried.
The beauty in this story is that because Brittany is a part of the Compassion project and now has a sponsor, the family can finally get the medical help they need to figure out what is wrong with Brittany. We even talked to the project director right after their visit to get them help and she is going to get Brittany the medical help she needs. But I kept thinking, what if she wasn’t a part of Compassion? What would they do?
They would have no options.
No options for medicine.
No options for tests.
No options for help.
It made me think of 5 options we take for granted that would absolutely change someone’s life in poverty.
- Clean Water: Brittany’s mother showed us where she gets water from the city but if they drink it they will get sick. She has to boil the water every day so her family has something to drink. Sadly, they are the lucky ones in her village that they even have easy access to water. Other families walk blocks to get this unclean water and still must find a way to boil it first before drinking it.
But with Compassion things are different. Compassion projects have water filters so the water there is safe for the children to drink when they visit every week.
2. Education: While public schools in Ecuador are free, children must have the money to purchase the school supplies and school uniforms to attend. With Brittany’s father driving a motor taxi for 12 hours a day every day the family still barely has enough to get by. Compassion provides school supplies and uniforms needed to children so they can attend school. The children even receive tutoring at the Compassion project weekly to make sure they can succeed in all of their classes.
3. The Ability to Dream: We have been asked since we were kids, what do you want to be when you grow up? Children in poverty are never asked that. Most have to drop out of school to work and support their families. Poverty steals their ability to be kids and forces them to grow up much too quickly. The difference between children in the Compassion program and those that are not is that Compassion kids have an answer when you ask them what they want to be when they grow up. Young Brittany wants to become a traffic cop. She is inspired by riding around with her dad in his motor taxi and when she sees people disobeying traffic rules she said someone should hold them accountable.
4. Friendship: Children in poverty are typically put to work at such a young age that they do not get to have friends or simply play like a kid. We were created by God to need community and connection. Compassion children say that their sponsor’s letters are the MOST important thing to them because it make them feel like they have best friend in their sponsor. Plus, the children develop healthy and deep friendships with other children at the Compassion project as they attend weekly.
5. Government Organizations to Help: If you run out of food there are food banks ready and willing to help. If you end up homeless there are shelters you could stay in. For those living in poverty in Ecuador there are no options or organizations to help. I asked Brittany’s mother if they could ask their family living nearby for help when there isn’t enough food and her answer broke my heart. “No, because they are struggle so much as well that they have no extra to give.” When every family in a community is barely getting by and hungry there is no option but hunger and even starvation when there isn’t enough money for food. Compassion is that organization that shows up to help. If a family is starving, they bring them food. If a child needs medical attention like Brittany, they get them to a doctor. When a child gets involved with Compassion they get a social worker who visits their home regularly so they become aware of the needs of the family and can help meet them.
Compassion is so good at bringing children like Brittany out of the shadows and into the light to be seen and helped. Brittany will no longer be forgotten. Sponsorship lets you join in with nurturing and loving a child while meeting their needs. When we asked Brittany who her sponsors were she immediately knew their name and said, “Matthew and Amy Anderson!” Imagine a child living in extreme poverty saying your name as the person who helped rescue them and give them options.
Since we were from the United States this family felt that we almost represented their sponsors so they brought out candy, desserts, and cookies for us. Seeing how they had very little food, I did not want to take the gifts; but they kept insisting. Finally, I realized they wanted to find a tiny way to bless us for how Compassion and their sponsors have blessed them so much, so I took the gifts. It was the kindest, most hospitable thing I have ever experienced in a poverty stricken home.