(This is long, but, stick with us! We need you!)
As a ministry, we have always asked God to bring the young women to our door that He wants us to help. We don’t go looking for them, God just brings them. As a dear friend said recently, “You are looking for the lost sheep that want to be found.” What did she mean by this? Our heart for the women’s home is to find those young women that are just waiting and praying for an opportunity. They are already striving to do their best at life. They may have experienced neglect, abandonment, abuse, violence, but, they are not going to give up. They are hard workers, good students, loving moms. They believe that God has a plan for their lives and are praying and trusting and hanging on. Sometimes they are tempted to give in to despair as their life circumstances become harder and harder. But, they don’t. They are looking up….expecting…..something. These are the “lost sheep that want to be found.”
A couple of weeks ago, God brought another precious young lady into our lives. Her name is Victoria. Fatima, the director of our Brave Youth Initiative, was in the community of Nuevo Renecer working with the students there, when, all of a sudden, a young woman walked quickly up to her and a co-worker, Luis Mario, breathlessly asking if “they were the ones who give scholarships?!” Fatima, a little started, said, “Well, not exactly, but, tell us about yourself!” She introduced herself and told them her story.
Victoria is a young woman that lives, “over the river and through the woods.” But, I would change that to, “over the river and through the sugar cane fields”. We literally had to (after driving over an hour to arrive at the village she lives ‘outside’ of) walk down a ravine, cross and river and hike through sugar cane fields to arrive at her little family home. Fatima was very impressed with Victoria. She told me, “she is kind, well-spoken, confident, bubbly, sweet and courageous!” When Fatima had met her, Victoria told her that she had graduated last year from a technical high school in a bigger town about 20 minutes from her little village. The only high school in this very remote, very poor area was a public high school with the usual very low level of education. Her father wanted more for his daughters. She said that she had graduated with high grades, including receiving a 8.25 on the PAES, which is El Salvador’s country-wide equivalency exam that all students must pass in order to graduate. Achieving an 8.25 on the PAES is practically miraculous, you see. Most students in the country earn a 4 or 5. The highest score is a 10. In order to enter the top universities in the country, one must receive a 7 or 8 on the PAES, depending on the university. When Fatima asked her what she wanted to do, she said, “I want to study to be an accountant!” When they started talking about universities, Victoria just happened to mention that she had taken the entrance exam to the National University here. (The ONLY public university, and the hardest one to gain entrance to because of demand. They only take the best students) When Fati asked her what her marks were on the exam, she said, “I don’t know. I have no way to find out. I don’t have a computer or access to one.” So, Fatima told her to give her the password and any information she would need and that when she returned to her home later that day, she would go online and check her results for her. Now, you must know that almost everyone who takes the entrance exams does not get admitted the first time. It takes practice to do well. If a person IS admitted, because of demand, they usually don’t get to study the career they want, but, must take whatever degree is available to study!
Fatima went online and she found that not only was Victoria accepted the FIRST time she took the exam, but, she was given the degree path of her choice! When Fatima called Victoria to give her the news, she was dumbfounded! Excitement can’t begin to describe her emotions! Fatima rejoiced with her, and she also came to me and told me this news. I had already been praying about Victoria. This news was just too much….YAY!!!!
This is Victoria with her family in front of their house. She is wearing a black dress. Her sisters are Carmen (25), right of her, and Conchy, (16) who is left of her.
We made a date to go and visit Victoria and her family at this point. We hiked that river and came to her home, perched on the edge of the sugar cane fields. What we found was a typical, dirt-floor, metal laminate walled home. But, inside we found a sweet, kind, happy family. We found parents who genuinely cared about the future of their children. They were open to us, they served us lovely lemonade to quench our thirst. We shared about our foundation with them. We told them about the vision God had given us to offer hope, opportunity and discipleship to young women through our Hope House women’s home/scholarship program. We told Victoria that it seemed God had brought her into our path, and we’d like her to become part of our women’s home/ scholarship program, pending sponsorship.
With tears in her eyes, Victoria shared with us that she had been praying…asking God to give her the opportunity to study, somehow. She has a great desire to go better herself and to go on to help her family financially. She said that she had even dreamed about living in a home where she would be taught about God and the Bible. (Her family is Catholic.) She said, “I could never imagine that I would have an opportunity like this. It is overwhelming.”
We invited her parents to visit our home in the capitol and have lunch with us. After a great time of sharing, in which her father opened up to tell us about his life during the countries bloody civil war, we ended by telling her that we would be sharing her story with those who pray for and support us as a ministry. We told her we would be asking them to open their hearts and give what is necessary to bring her into our home and to offer her this safe place to grow, to study and to follow her dreams. So, here I am, asking! Will you consider becoming a part of Victoria’s support team?
But, wait, there’s more! Victoria’s little sister, Conchy, just graduated from 9th grade with great grades. Her desire is to follow her sister’s path to attend the same institute for high school. When Victoria attended the school, she was given a scholarship. However, there are no scholarships available this year. Her father pleaded with us to help him send her to the school. The school itself is free, if you are accepted. But, the transportation, lunch money and incidentals, like books, copies, school supplies, they need help with. This is what the scholarship would be for. We estimated that Conchy would need about $60.00 per month to attend the institute. We are very excited to catch Conchy at this critical time in her life and help her to be very well prepared in a good high school, to go on to study at a university. As a side note, Conchy just started attending our girls club in Nuevo Renecer, and we have been very impressed with her maturity, kindness and work ethic. She is definitely leadership material! In young women like Conchy, we can see the girls club program and our women’s home/scholarship program melding together to form a wonderful support and empowerment for the future of young women in El Salvador.
This is what we are asking for to:
A.) It will cost $300.00 per month to cover Victoria’s costs. That is school, food, housing, personal needs, bus passage, books and incidentals. Pretty incredible, eh? Would you consider taking a portion of that amount? Possibly $50.00, $100.00 or the entire amount? We feel so strongly that Victoria is the next young woman that we are supposed to open our doors to. This lost sheep has been found! We are rejoicing to be a part of her story.
B.) For Conchy, again, we are asking someone to help us with only $60.00 per month to prepare this sweet young woman for a better future. Would you do that?
Fatima explaining to Victoria and her parents the opportunity Hope for Families offers to young women.