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Fátima’s family didn’t always live in a renovated pigsty. In fact, Fátima’s mother, Adriana, says the family was doing okay before being forced to move. Although they’d been far from wealthy, they did live in a spacious if modest house that was attached to Adriana’s place of employment: a large, privately owned tailoring shop.
But when the shop shut down and the owner lost the building, the home was no longer an option for Fátima’s family. Her father, Jose, couldn’t sustain their lifestyle on his income as a taxi driver (despite working two shifts). Facing the possibility of homelessness, they were forced to move from the heart of Guadalajara to a more rural – and more affordable – area of Jalisco.
Still, the only place the family could afford to rent was a former pigpen on a relative’s property.
“The most difficult time that my family and I have dealt with is when we had to move,” says Fátima. “Having to live in a pigsty … and converting it to a house.”
The family wasn’t accustomed to such dire living conditions. Before the move, Adriana made significantly more money on her own than she and her husband are able to make now – combined.
“It was a dramatic change for all of us,” admits Adriana. For starters, the kids had to enroll in new schools, which meant paying new school fees and purchasing new uniforms. Between these costs and the renovation of the pigpen, the meager savings they had quickly dissipated.
“Little by little, we spent a lot,” says Adriana. “The move and the changes rocked me emotionally. I felt this was not what my daughters deserved, so for a time, I was very depressed.”
Before the dust from the renovations had even settled, Fátima’s family realized they were barely staying afloat. “Sometimes,” Fátima recalls of those dark times, “if I needed a pencil for school, my mom would cut back and have to buy less food so I could have a pencil.”
Making matters worse, the community where they now live is minimally policed – leaving a void that negative influences are eager to fill. “It’s dangerous,” Fátima says. “There are people who want to do bad things to you. There are gang members who spend all day getting high, harassing people, stealing. And if they see each other, they fight.”
The move happened when Fátima was 8-years-old. It was a particularly vulnerable time for the young girl, given her parents’ financial instability and the new surroundings she found herself in. Fatima’s – and her family’s – need for some sort of positive intervention was mounting. Fortunately, Adriana’s sister knew about Children International’s presence in the community.
Soon after learning about the organization, Adriana took Fátima to the CI community center, where she was enrolled in the program. Fátima was placed on the waiting list, hoping she’d become sponsored as quickly as possible.
Months passed. “Then, one morning,” recounts Fátima, “my mom received a phone call, saying I’d been sponsored. Mom and I both started screaming!”
“My first reaction was to yell with excitement,” confirms Adriana. “Next, I felt peace.”
Adriana’s sister had told them about the benefits of CI, such as education assistance, access to health services, skill-building programs, and more. Sponsorship provided added confidence and hope – and alleviated a pressure that had been weighing them down since the move.
“When Fátima began going to CI, it changed our lives a lot,” says her mom. And it wasn’t just financial relief from school and health-related burdens. “It helped me emotionally,” Adriana says. “I was depressed and didn’t feel motivated to do anything.” Adriana took classes and has become a volunteer mom with CI, which she says has enriched her life.
And the changes in Fátima have been amazing. Laura Torres, CI-Jalisco’s computer training facilitator, tells us, “The first time Fátima and her mom came to CI to ask about classes, the girl was very shy. She didn’t talk much. Her growth has been impressive. She is now extroverted and proactive,” adds Laura. “She is always at the community center and wants to learn everything we teach. As soon as she finishes one workshop, she enrolls in another.”
Fátima is definitely aware of, and grateful for, the transformational opportunities she has received through sponsorship. “At CI,” she says, “I received tutoring in math and Spanish and I started getting better. I went from getting 6s to getting 9s or higher.”
This motivated 12-year-old even has an inspired vision for her future. “Seeing how this community is has motivated me to want to help people,” says Fátima. “There are kids who aren’t even a year old and they are in the streets, out with people who sell drugs and things, living among that. Seeing that has made me want to help. I’d like to open a free daycare so little kids can have a better upbringing.”
For children and entire families facing the daily hardships of poverty, sponsorship is about more than tangible, quantifiable change. “There are things that aren’t material that I’ve gained at Children International,” Fátima concludes, “like love toward people, because I have given my love and they have given me theirs. And I would like to tell my sponsor, ‘Thank you so much for sponsoring me!’”