Carlos: From Sponsored Child to Board Member
Carlos Alfonso Aparicio Gómez was part of the sponsored child program for 13 years and now, he has been given the opportunity to make something of himself. Currently a member of Plan Colombia’s Board of Directors and Director of Inter-institutional relations at Bogota’s Central University, he has travelled to 14 countries and helped secure a loan of $200 million from the World Bank, which helped 100,000 students enter universities.
Carlos’ story begins with the impact his sponsor made in his life: “My sponsor came into my life during a rough time. I was five. We lived in a makeshift house of paper and wood. Exposure to the elements and the cold meant exposure to chronic bronchitis. We had medical attention only through Plan. There was no government help. A Plan-built medical center saved my life, over and over again.
“And so did a woman, Louise Miller – a retired math teacher living on Vancouver Island. Her regular letters showed me a different world, and helped me to dream — of a better life for me, a better life for my family, a better life for my society.
“Through Plan programs my family gained access to healthcare and an education. I studied by candlelight in the “house” my father built. All I needed was this chance to make something of me.”
An unforgettable summer
Carlos, at just 16, was the youngest student in his class to finish high school. But, he continued to support his brothers in working to finish their education, too. He studied English and soon received a certificate of proficiency in English. Plan employed Carlos as an external translator, enabling him to finance his university studies.
Meanwhile, letters with his sponsor continued to spur Carlos on in attaining his dreams: “By the time I was 18, I had built a strong relationship with Ms. Miller. She was a member of the family. From that moment Louise and I wrote our letters directly and made phone calls, we even exchanged cassette tapes.
“When I was 25, I fulfilled another dream. I got a loan from the bank and boarded a plane to visit Louise Miller on Vancouver Island, after 20 years of letters, cards and tapes. It was like going home. There were pictures of my family all over the house, and a big one on the piano. It’s something I’ll never forget. We travelled the coast of Vancouver Island, meeting family and friends. It was a most unforgettable summer.”
A marvellous experience
Throughout Carlos’ career, he continued to show a passion for education and a passion for others to receive the education that they would be normally be denied. “I first worked at an International Organization (APICE) that helps universities manage financial aid programs for students who might not otherwise be able to attend university. I then worked at Los Andes University in different positions, as a teacher, as the budget and accounting Director, and as the Director of Scholarship and Loans Programs.
“In 2002 I travelled to Washington as the sole representative of Colombia´s universities to secure a US$ 200 million loan from the World Bank. That loan helped 100,000 students who might not have otherwise entered to universities.”
Carlos has been on Plan Colombia’s Board of Directors as a treasurer, since January 2010. “When Gabriela Bucher asked me to be part of the Board, I just answered ‘I am made in Plan. Of course, yes.’ From this position I can have a complete view of Plan´s work. A marvellous experience! “I think that all the programs with the communities are very close in my heart. They are well-designed and very important. I am sure that when Plan helps a community it is also helping many children to have a better life. Each document to read, each decision to take and each visit to a community reminds me that there are many children like me that can be helped because of Plan, and that we can make good things to change the lives.”
He and his family not only gained access to healthcare and education, but sponsorship led Carlos to his future family. He explains: “Plan not only helped my family and I, but also brought another important person into my life. My wife Nina was also a sponsored child.” Carlos and Nina (pictured right) now have two teenage children, Camilo, 19, who is studying Systems and Computing Engineering at Los Andes University and Laura, 13, who is in the 8th grade of a high school where Carlo’s brother Oscar is the principal.
“Thanks to Louise´s support and everybody in Plan, my family´s situation has improved. My mother studied dressmaking through Foster Parents Plan, and made clothes for the family.
“My four brothers and sister are all professionals with important jobs. One of them is a high school teacher, two more are catholic priests and my sister works at the United Nations.”