Estefany Cruz was raised in a family that for many generations belittled women and sent them to school only to learn how to read and write. Her grandma made it to second grade and her mom to sixth grade. Since kindergarten, Estefany has been passionate about learning and has decided to keep it up as much as possible. “At home, I noticed that Estefany was smart and very diligent, but I was afraid that I couldn’t provide everything she needed after high school in the public school,” said Estefany’s mother.
Estefany’s father, divorced from her mother, lived a short distance away but couldn’t provide financial support. However, he received important news that he recognized as part of God’s plan to provide opportunities for Estefany. He was approached by a neighbor who told him about a project that had recently opened in the community. “The neighbor was a project staff member at that time, and I’m sure she was sent by God because we never saw her again after Estefany’s enrollment,” her father said. “This was a blessing because I was not able to support her.”
The Compassion center welcomed Estefany at age 8. She was soon sponsored by a married couple who have encouraged her along the way. “My sponsors are very special to me; they pray for me and they make me feel loved. From a distance, they share many happy moments, like when they had their two daughters. I was very excited for them and I loved the photos they sent me,” said Estefany, who loved learning about her sponsors. At a very young age, Estefany also learned about home responsibilities. “I have told my four other children and Estefany that I was going to support them until high school, because we don’t have enough resources,”Estefany’s mother said. “Estefany started learning and helping me use the sewing machine at home to fix neighbors’ clothing.” In the semi-rural community where Estefany’s family lives the goal for young people was to work in the maize field. According to Estefany’s mother , there was plenty to do and it all started with her parents. “I was raised harvesting maize and beans,” she said. “Our life was in the field; we never imagined anything different for us.”
But the mindset of people in the community turned into an obstacle that prevented them from moving forward. Estefany’s mother was told that she needed to take advantage of her children to produce more money for the family. The people in the community advised her to have the children washing clothes all day instead of focusing on their studies. “Neighbors constantly tell me to this day that it is a waste of time and effort to support my children until high school because children leave, and later I will be alone like I never had them. I don’t think that’s true, because Estefany shows great love to our family and diligence in her studies and responsibilities at home,”Estefany’s mother said.
A New Generation
As Estefany continued growing up, she decided to persevere in learning and never listen to words that could bring her down. Instead, her motivation was to win first-place medals in her class. “It made me incredibly happy to bring back home awards for being the best student, and not because I would receive a gift at home. I wanted to strive for the best to make my parents proud, and it was also nice to have recognition,” Estefany said. Estefany’s mother was happy that one of her children was showing so much dedication. “Estefany was taking advantage of everything she was learning at school and in her [Compassion] center,” she said. “She was involved in every workshop they opened. She was in the computer, English, imitation jewelry, bakery and sewing workshops. She wanted to try them all and learn as much as she could.”
Estefany was about to graduate from high school with honors, but despite her excellent grades or enthusiasm, there was one difficult reality she was about to face. “There was no way to continue studying, and my world crumbled. My parents didn’t have the resources to support my dream of going to the university, so I cried deeply,” Estefany said. Estefany’s project director, Edwin Madrid, evaluated her situation. He had seen that since she was 8 years old, Estefany was aiming to become a professional. “She had succeeded as a student and also as a role model at church,” Edwin said. “She had been actively serving as a youth leader, and there was a special thing about her. She did everything with the right heart and with excellence.” At that time, Edwin spoke with Estefany to make a deal. The sewing workshop required someone like her as the instructor, providing guidance and good practices to pass on to the children and helping the workshop to become self-sustainable. In exchange, the income generated would help everyone who participated, including her. Estefany did not hesitate to say yes. Soon, the workshop received many orders because the word started spreading throughout many other Compassion centers that this center provided excellent-quality products.
“We were making uniforms for other [Compassion] projects—shirts and sweatpants for children but also staff uniforms,” Estefany said. “We were happy to have so many orders because this allowed us to accomplish our main goal of being self-sustainable and benefiting everyone in the workshop.” From each order received, the beneficiaries in the workshop got a payment according to the number of clothing pieces and time spent. This benefited Estefany, who received the biggest surprise as soon as she opened the booklet for her savings account. “I couldn’t believe that what I had earned in the first few months was exactly what I needed to start paying for my university tuition. That day I cried with joy, knowing that God was taking care of me and my dreams,” she said. According to Edwin, the talent that Estefany developed was a blessing that gave her the boost she needed. “In the workshop, Estefany was able to design dresses for Compassion’s symphonic orchestra,” Edwin said. “She likes to design her own dresses and to make dresses by request. This all helps her to continue paying for her studies monthly.”
For three years, Estefany has been paying for her studies with the income from the sewing workshop, proving that God makes everything possible.
“I want to thank my Compassion project for changing my life and for supporting my dreams of studying industrial engineering, for now I am the only one in my family who made it to the university,” Estefany said. “I will break this cycle of poverty in Jesus’ name.”