Power of ONE: Opening the doors of the heart

Longtime child sponsor Marily Reyes holding flowers

Marily Reyes has been a CI sponsor since 1993.

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.

Tell us about yourself.

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.

How did you get involved with CI?

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.

Octavio and his brother, Enzo, were both working while Marily was visiting their family in 2007, so a photo was the next best thing to being there.

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.

Marily hugs Oscar during a visit

Marily hugs Oscar, the youngest of the brothers, during her visit to Chile in 2007.

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!

Side-by-side comparison of Erwin’s first CI photo with his most recent

Marily began sponsoring Erwin in 2007, when he was 5 years old. Here’s Erwin in his most recent CI photo, at age 14.

What has been your favorite CI experience?

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.

In what surprising way has being involved with CI changed your life?

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.

Marily visits with her former sponsored kids, Octavio and Oscar, and their mother, María.

Tell me about one person who has had a big impact on your life.

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.

How would you describe your sponsored kids?

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!

What do you love about sponsoring your children?

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.

Erwin and Marily during a sponsor visit

Marily visited Guadalajara, Mexico, in 2010 to meet Erwin, then 8.

What does the phrase “Unleashing the power of (every)ONE” mean to you?

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.

See for yourself how sponsorship can “melt your soul,” as Marily describes it.

Meet amazing kids now!


Apr 8, 2018

Thank you for this heart-warming story!

Rosa H._2da7c
Apr 29, 2018

thank you for the heartwarning and lovely story, I myself is sponsoring my 2 child in Colombia since 2014, they give me a next boy, as my first sponsored child became 18 and I guess that is the cutoff sponsoring age, and I do hope that my first sponsored child is doing well.
I would love to plan a visit and visit my sponsored child who will be 7 in June.
I thank you Marily Reyes for your heart touching story and may God continue to bless you and your family.

Aug 7, 2018

She is so loving and caring

Apr 23, 2019

I read this story. It makes me cry. I have a child in Guatemala. I can not wait to meet him. Actually he is ten years old. Y gave him when he was five. It is a lovely experience. If you read this but you are not in just do it. It is one of the more great experience.

Sep 7, 2021

Loved your story. I started sponsorship of a 16 year old buy and a girl in columbia this year. I hope to meet them next year

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