Marily Reyes has had the privilege of seeing her sponsored children grow up, choose professions and even get married and have kids of their own. We caught up with this longtime sponsor to find out a little more about her and why she’s so passionate about helping children.
I am originally from Cuba and have lived in Miami since 1961. I am the president of The Cove/Rincon International, a nonprofit, bilingual, international cultural organization. It’s my life, and I love what I do. I founded it 21 years ago and have more than 25 nationalities represented.
My husband and I were going through a rough economic time, and I promised God that if we got out of that situation (we had two children already), that I would put my money where my mouth is and make sure I’d help someone who really needs it. And really, who better than a child?
So, I started to research, and one day I think I got something in the mail from Children International and that fit perfectly. I sponsored my first CI child, Octavio, in Chile. And since I occasionally go to other countries for my organization, the next time I went to Chile, I met not only Octavio but two of his brothers, Enzo and Oscar, who I started sponsoring as well.
The youngest one did not finish the program, and when I went again to Chile and met with them, I asked his mother, María, why he was not in the program anymore. She said that, thanks to me, one of her sons was a policeman and the other was in the army. Both helped with money for the house, so she did not need help from CI anymore. It was only fair they would leave that opportunity for another child in need.
I had to hold back my tears. I am very proud of those kids. The youngest is still in university. Octavio is now married and has two beautiful little girls. I am traveling to Chile in November, and I already told them I want to see them.
I also sponsored a little boy in Guatemala who I met as well, but he was not in the program long because his family moved away. Still, I had the pleasure of seeing his 6-year-old face light up when I bought him a bike.
Over the last few years, I’ve been sponsoring another child in Mexico, Erwin. I went to meet him, too, about three or four years ago. I also met his parents and little brother; I took them to eat and went shopping for both kids. I’m hoping to do it again!
Being able to sponsor the three brothers in Chile and seeing the results firsthand. I’ve watched Octavio grow into a fine young man of whom I am very proud.
It has made me want to continue sponsoring, even now that we are semiretired. Sponsorship is something that melts my soul. You are never the same again, especially if you get to meet your child and see the results.
And, one of my favorite memories is of Octavio — a grown man already, with a bouquet of flowers in his hands — running across the streets of Chile to greet me. (Check out the photo taken later that day below!) He was so excited. It still brings tears to my eyes.
My mom was my teacher, in school and at home, and she said she was the happiest teacher in the world. She taught me to love children while even being a child myself.
But I also think every passing face leaves footprints in our lives if we take the time to see it.
Some footprints might not be so nice, but nonetheless we can learn from them all. And, from children, we learn the MOST.
They all have been and still are good “children.” They all liked school. Some at the beginning were a bit shy, but by the time I met them, that had already changed. Most of them liked playing ball, mainly soccer. I remember sending Octavio a soccer ball all the way from here!
How it makes me feel inside. It is an indescribable feeling to know — and, in my case, actually hear from a mother — how what I’ve done has changed their lives.
I think it refers to unleashing that power in the children to better themselves through education, whether in daily life or for a career or trade.
Yet, to me and for those who sponsor kids or are thinking of sponsoring, I would say that sponsoring a child empowers our hearts and souls. It unleashes a power that is addictive. You don’t want to let it go. Like when a child learns to read and sees all the doors of his imagination open, all the doors to our hearts open when we know we have helped a child.