Does sponsorship work?
14-year-old Genesis is living proof.
Genesis is 14 years old, a karaoke queen, an informed big sister and a dedicated student. Today, she’s got a lot to smile about – but it hasn’t always been that way. Genesis is living proof of the transformation child sponsorship can make in one person’s life – it was the lifeline she needed to take herself from rock bottom to dreaming sky high.
“Since I was little, my dream has been to be a military woman. The idea that I am going to fly in an airplane fills me with emotion; being in the clouds is my dream,” says 14-year-old Genesis, with a wide smile.
An unexpected twist
Four years ago, flying high was the furthest thing from her mind – she felt like she had hit rock bottom.
The past four years have been a transformation for Genesis, who lives with her family in a small farming town near Ambato, Ecuador. It’s one of the poorest parts of the country where many people don’t have access to essentials like healthcare, education and clean water. With her family struggling to make ends meet, life had never been easy for Genesis. But when she was 10, things spiralled rapid downward.
Genesis experienced a sudden facial paralysis that disfigured her face and took over a year to heal. She began to be bullied at school and became significantly overweight, adding extra layers of complexity as she navigated early adolescence. Genesis became deeply sad and could see no hope in her future.
Healing and hope
At her lowest point, Genesis made the decision that would change everything: she agreed to join the child sponsorship programme.
Genesis was sponsored by a family in Canada and they began to send her messages of encouragement and love, in letters written just for her. She received practical support like school supplies and health care, and she started participating in World Vision workshops and activities that shifted her thinking about what she could do and who she could be.
Bit by bit, letter by letter that they exchanged, Genesis began to see herself as her sponsors saw her – a person who is cared for and valued.
“My life has changed with sponsorship,” she says. “The letters from my sponsor make me feel grateful and happy because in their words they encourage me. On important dates like Christmas or my birthday I receive messages that fill me with emotion, and I feel loved.”
Free to be
Poverty is not one dimensional – it’s the combination of poverty’s root causes that create a formidable barrier to change. It takes a multi-pronged approach to overcome it, and that’s why a layered response that strengthens not just a child, but their family and their whole community, is at the heart of child sponsorship. Genesis is living proof.
Practical help and care like essentials for school and for home have helped Genesis meet her basic needs. But child sponsorship also meant she could gain new knowledge about her rights, value and personal freedoms that, over time, have built her strength and confidence as an independent young woman.
This girl who once felt invisible to the world is now unafraid to be heard – Genesis has even discovered a love of singing karaoke!
What does a multi-layered solution to poverty look like? Things like anti-drugs and addiction education training so she understands the harm drugs can bring to her life or those in her family, violence protection workshops so she knows her rights and who to turn to if she experiences violence, and personal rights training so she knows she should have control over what happens to her and how to fight for that right if it is attacked.
Hygiene workshops have given her the tools to implement good habits for a healthy lifestyle and being part of a leadership development programme has nurtured her confidence and helped build the skills she needs to lead change in her community.
Even fun things like celebrating her birthday with friends at the programme are a chance to experience genuine care and connection, helping to break down feelings of worthlessness and self-doubt and replace them with confidence and joy.
The ripple effect
It’s not only Genesis who is creating a better life with her sponsor’s support. Like the vast majority of sponsored children, her family is benefitting as well. That’s by design, because having a health, strong family around a child is key to their own personal growth.
Genesis was able to take her mum to a series of “Go Baby Go” classes as part of the programme, where she learned about nutrition, maternal health and parenting skills, so together they could better care for her one-year-old sister Maria Jose.
“World Vision have taught us things that we did not know before. We learned about early stimulation for young children – now my sister is healthy and very smart!” Genesis says.
At the very start of World Vision’s partnership with Genesis’ community, community leaders shared their dreams for the future of children like her. Together with World Vision staff, they created a plan that would, over time, address the root causes of poverty there. Just a few years on, Genesis shows that the plan is being realised.
World Vision is at the early stages of partnership with Genesis’ community, but so much has happened already. Parents have engaged in child and maternal health training and parenting workshops. There are new spaces for children to develop their abilities in dance, music, art and sports which are essential for confidence and self-esteem but are often out of reach when families are struggling with basic needs. Families have learned about disaster preparation, and that’s important in Ambato because it’s home to one of the world’s most active volcanoes, which displaced people and destroyed crops and homes as recently as 2006. And, over the past few years, World Vision has helped her community survive COVID-19 with preventative information and materials like hygiene kits, masks, supplies to local health facilities and food assistance.
Bold and ambitious
The support of child sponsors has meant the community can take charge of its future – and so can Genesis. When she looks into the mirror today, she sees a very different girl to the one she saw four years ago. Today’s Genesis is confident, ambitious and boldly stepping into the future she’s carving out for herself – one step at a time.