We made the 15-minute walk through the busy, dusty streets of Joyabaj, Guatemala, to visit Sylvia and her family in their home.
The sidewalks were narrow, and the bumpy, brick-paved streets were noisy with traffic, the smell of car exhaust in the air. We often had to pause our conversation during the walk as the noise drowned out our words. It was the same walk that Sylvia makes each week when she attends her Compassion project, GU-892.
When we arrived, Sylvia and her younger sister and brothers were waiting for us. Giggling, they led us through a narrow passageway between gray brick walls, turning right down another narrow path before coming to their home at the end.
Sylvia’s stepmother welcomed us into their one-room, dirt-floor home, where we found seats on the two beds, where this family with five children lives.
There in the dark room, we learned some of Sylvia’s story, while the shy 10-year-old stood in the doorway, listening, her hair pulled back in a ponytail, one piece constantly falling forward and needing to be tucked behind her ear, in the same manner as my own 10-year-old daughter.
We learned that Sylvia enjoys attending her Compassion project, that her favorite activity there is making crafts, and that although she is 10 years old, she is behind in school, only attending first grade.
We also learned that Sylvia’s mother is an alcoholic, who neglected Sylvia and her younger sister, Julessa, 7, often letting them roam the streets, dirty and hungry. Her father and stepmother gained custody of the children earlier this year, and her stepmother recounted how difficult it had been to tame the wild girl.
She said at first, Sylvia only wanted to run in the streets, but over time, she learned to stay closer to her new home, where she was being taught how to care for herself, to do chores, to be a little girl who is part of a family who loves her.
This love was evident in the eyes of Sylvia’s stepmother, who told us she used to see the girls on the streets when they still lived with their mother, and she would clean them up and feed them. We commended her for her obvious love for the girls, and she explained that she herself had been an orphan; that she loved children, and had always been drawn to the children in her village, who loved to hear her stories.
In front of us stood a woman, prepared by God through her own difficult childhood, for this time in Sylvia’s life. Who better to care for and love this motherless girl than this woman, who also had been motherless?
Sylvia’s stepmother’s name is Esperanza: hope.
If you are interested in sponsoring a child in Guatemala like Sylvia through Compassion, or in any of the 27 countries around the world in which Compassion works, please click here.