Guatemala is an impoverished nation, with nearly 75% of the population living below the poverty line, according to worldbank.org. In fact, according to guatemalahousingalliance.org, almost 20% of Guatemalans live on less than $1 a day. Readingvillage.org says that children in Guatemala are 5 times more likely to die before their fifth birthday than children in America. Most Guatemalans only go to school for four years before dropping out, and only three out of ten students graduate from the 6th grade. That means that 25% of children in Guatemala will grow up never learning to read or write. Instead of getting an education and maintaining a career, they will be scraping the streets, selling anything they can in order to provide for their family.
My name is Emily, I’m 20 years old and I currently live in Tennessee. I have gone to Guatemala on mission trips five separate times; the first being in 2011. While in Guatemala, I have had a Quinceanera (a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday), climbed a mountain, explored caves, helped build churches, repaired houses, and given food to families who didn’t know how they were going to eat for the next week. However, the best thing that I have done while there is sponsored a child through Compassion International. Compassion is an organization that allows you to financially sponsor a child from another country. It costs about $35 every month and provides the child with food, clean water, tutoring, health care, and mentorship. You can write letters back and forth and even meet your sponsor child.
My sponsor child’s name is Jhonatan (Jonathan), and he is 15 years old now. I first started sponsoring him back when he was only 11. The coolest part is that I’ve been able to meet him and see him again every year since. Only 1% of sponsors ever actually meet their sponsor children, so how lucky am I to have seen him four times now? I have gotten to meet his parents and his siblings as well. We have gotten so close over the years that he calls me his sister, and his mother calls me her daughter. We have gotten to go to a fun house, a zoo, and an extreme sports park together. When I visit I can bring him presents, along with essential items, such as toothbrushes, clothes, and school supplies. He especially loves when I bring him snacks and candy. We write each other every couple of months to catch up. I’ve sent him pictures of my family and pets, and from him, I have been able to learn all about his life in Guatemala. I have loved watching him grow up, from a goofy little boy to an intelligent and caring young man. He is hoping to go to college and wants to be a cop when he grows up.
I think my favorite thing that we have done together was in 2015, when we went to an extreme sports park, and they had a three story high jump. He asked me if I would do it, and I said I would only do it if he did it first (thinking that he would chicken out, and I wouldn’t have to go, as I am terrified of heights). But just my luck, he runs up the three flights of stairs it takes to get to the line for the high jump, and he continues to jump off of it with no hesitation or fear. Then it was my turn. I climbed the three flights of stairs to the top, I got harnessed in, and I looked down. Everyone looked like Legos. I took a deep breath and jumped. It was the scariest thing I have ever done, but at the end of the day he told me that it was the most fun he had ever had. It was so awesome to be able to share that experience with him and face my fear, even if it was terrifying.