The first need of every child

When my co-workers found Mayra, she was 10 years old. She was living with her parents and her five younger siblings.

If you were to visit Mayra’s home in the neighborhood of Horno Ckasa, Bolivia, you’d first notice the door. We don’t think much about doors where I live in suburban America. We take for granted that we have sturdy front doors with latches and locks. But in a rough neighborhood in Bolivia, Mayra’s door is a danger. It’s made of wood so old that it’s deteriorating, a reminder of the vulnerability that Mayra and her family face every day.

If you took the initiative to knock on Mayra’s door, you might find this 10-year-old girl playing with her siblings or studying after school. You would step into her home of mud-brick walls. You’d meet her father, a humble carpenter, who might be carving a chair leg by hand or sanding down a table.

Sad acceptance

Mayra’s parents don’t earn much from their carpentry business, but they manage to get by. I imagine Mayra’s mother as a no-nonsense woman. It’s all she can do to keep her kids clean and out of trouble. She doesn’t have time for silliness, and she doesn’t have money for frivolities. But there’s a sad acceptance in her face. She knows that the future for her kids will be much like the life she’s living now. The hunger she experienced as a child is the hunger that her kids experience today. She foresees that same hunger for her grandchildren. It is just their life.

There’s a local school in town. Mayra and her siblings go to school, but if you pulled Mayra aside, you would likely hear her say that she has no hopes beyond the adobe house and the deteriorating door.

It’s too overwhelming

When I hear about children in distress, it’s more than I can handle. Sometimes I feel like I have to shut it out because it’s too close. It’s too poignant.

When tragedy hit Newtown, Conn. a few weeks ago, I felt the same way. The hurt was palpable. Days after the event, a friend shared this quote.

“Becoming a mother makes you the mother of all children. From now on, each wounded, abandoned, frightened child is yours. You live in the suffering mothers of every race, creed and weep with them. You long to comfort all who are desolate.” -Charlotte Gray

I would expand those words to say that being a human being makes you the parent of all children. None of us can bear to see a little one suffer. We feel drawn to help kids in need. However, the needs of a kid like Mayra seem too far to reach and too deep to fill.

What would you give first?

If you really could knock on Mayra’s door right now, and if she answered and looked you in the eye, what would you do? What’s the first thing you would give to Mayra? What does Mayra need most?

The very first thing that Mayra needs is hope. She needs hope that life could possibly be different. She needs hope that she could have a different future than the one laid out for her by her circumstances.

Sponsorship inspires hope

When my co-workers at Food for the Hungry in Bolivia found Mayra, they enrolled her in our child sponsorship program. That program matched her with an American sponsor like you and me. That sponsorship allowed Maria, our staff person in Mayra’s neighborhood, to work daily with Mayra. Maria awakened a hope that was latent in Mayra. Maria told Mayra the truth.

“You were made in God’s image.”

“You were born with the creativity and brains to be anything you want to be.”

“Poverty is not a life sentence.”

If you met a child like Mayra today, would you speak hope into her life?

I met her

I did meet Mayra! However, I didn’t meet her when she was 10 years old, back when Food for the Hungry found her. I met her in 2012 when I visited Bolivia. She’s 20 years old now—bright, warm, beautiful. As Mayra told me her story, I scribbled notes furiously. Here are the very words she told me.

 “From Food for the Hungry, I learned that men and women can change their own future. Coming from a home with few resources, I didn’t think I could go further. But I learned that poverty is NOT inherited. Anyone can change if she wants to and tries. The first thing to change is the mind.”

Mayra is in her third year of college. She’s pre-med! This daughter of a carpenter is going to be a doctor!

That’s what I want to give a vulnerable kid. I want to awaken her hope.

Inspire hope today

Today, won’t you find a way to inspire hope in a child in your life? Take your son aside to tell him how special he is. Send a handwritten note to a niece or nephew. Or, if you want to help a child like Mayra, sponsor a child.




About Wendy McMahan

Wendy McMahan is grateful for her front row seat in watching God “reconcile all things to Himself.” (Colossians 1:20) She still can’t believe that she gets to participate in His story every day. Wendy and her husband are proud parents to two daughters and have been foster parents to children of all ages. Wendy serves as Director of Church Engagement at Food for the Hungry. She hosts the Poverty Unlocked podcast.

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