A barefoot little girl with sad eyes used to walk around in Cartagena, Colombia. She looked dirty and was often naked, standing at the street most of the day. That girl’s name is Andrea.
Andrea is 4 years old. She lives in a poor community surrounded by violence. Her house is in a slum and made of old wood. She resides there with her mother, grandmother, an aunt and two of her siblings, 9-year-old Yeselin and 2-year-old Lewin. Andrea used to look dirty due to the ground floor of her house and the absence of parental care. Andrea does not know her father. Her mother spends most of her time going out with friends, while Andrea and her siblings are under the care of her grandmother Fermina. Her grandmother provides for the family’s expenses by cleaning homes when she is able to. In 2017, Compassion started a partnership with a local church. This church has been working for children in the community for several years and has a school where many of them are able to study. For Pastor Adela of the local church partner, children are so important, and she inspires others to be advocates for them.
When Andrea was age 3, Pastor Adela wanted to register her as a Compassion beneficiary. However, Andrea did not have a birth certificate, so project staff talked asked Andrea’s mother to solve this. After several attempts to get it, Andrea finally became a beneficiary child in March 2018 and got her sponsors.
When Andrea started to attend the program, she used to be aggressive with the other children and refused to receive hugs. Neighbors thought she was mute, because she remained silent most of the time. However, after a couple of weeks attending the child development center, Andrea’s attitude changed. She started to smile, and she no longer looked sad. Pastor Adela and the project’s program specialist, Dorelis, helped Andrea be clean when she attended the project. They combed Andrea’s hair and made her outside appearance as pretty as she is inside. For them, Andrea is valuable, and they are aware that their mission is to care for children, for every child they are able to help.
Dorelis shared, “We find children in vulnerable situations and help them get ahead – demonstrating the changes [in their lives] and helping them believe that God is love. We show love not only when preaching the Word of God or teaching a verse, but also in the actions that we as adults take with children.”
She continued, “In Andrea’s case, the change has been seen, because she believes that God is love; she sees love in us (project staff). Here she receives love, she feels welcomed, she feels happy, and she receives the affection she does not receive at home. We tell her, ‘You are important. You are beautiful.’ We ask her, ‘What do you want to be when you are an adult?’ And she says, ‘A pastor.’”
Andrea attends church every weekend, Saturdays and Sundays. She tells others, “I go to the church.” At the project, she and her friends play “the church meeting” and she acts like the pastor who preaches to other children. Andrea dreams of becoming a pastor. Andrea is scheduled to attend the project twice a week; nevertheless, she goes to the project Monday through Friday. She arrives early in the morning and spends her days in the place where she has fun and learns. Andrea receives curriculum classes and learns things like the vowels, colors, etc., in order to help her advance in her learning. She will start her studies next year, in the school that is part of the church.
People from the community have seen the change in Andrea’s life. Since Andrea started to attend the project, she is no longer dirty or naked. Even though she still does not speak as well as she should, she sings and communicates her ideas. Andrea is able to smile and laugh; her face shines when she smiles and shows her teeth, expressing her happiness. Andrea receives medical checks at the project. She suffers from skin allergies and had low weight, but thanks to the project she is receiving treatment and medical monitoring to be healthy and have good development.
Project staff hope to register Lewin, Andrea’s little brother, as a Compassion beneficiary. Lewin remains dirty and low weight as Andrea used to be. On the other hand, Pastor Adela and project staff visit Andrea’s family to talk to them about the care and love they should show to Andrea and her siblings. It is important for families to understand that, despite poverty and lack of necessities, children can to be treated with love and need to know how valuable they are. Andrea has learned her value at the project; there, she feels loved and knows that she has a heavenly Father who will always care for her. The project is a refuge where Andrea found hope, where she learned to dream and to sing, and where she knew happiness. In spite of the abandonment she faces at home, Andrea is a brave child who learned to smile among the pain.