Kids don’t stay kids forever—any parent could tell you that. And that includes sponsored children too! They benefit from years of support from people like you, gaining the opportunity to go to school or learn new skills and pursue their dreams. When they graduate from the sponsorship program, they’re prepared to be independent, self-sufficient adults, working to enact change in their communities.
But what happens next?
Each child has a uniquely amazing story. And when I heard the story of Elizabeth, I knew I had to share it with you. Because, people like you make these stories possible.
Elizabeth is 22 and lives in Guatemala. She was 6 when she became a sponsored child and remembers learning about her rights with her younger sisters. She joined a Plan International youth group and became a gender equality champion. And, thanks to a scholarship from Plan, she graduated from high school. Now she works for Plan International Guatemala as a Sponsorship Assistant, receiving and registering sponsorship documents and photos. The job allows her to pay for classes at the University of Jalapa, where she is studying to become a psychologist.
I hope you enjoy hearing from Elizabeth as much as I did!
My mother attended school until sixth grade and my father until third grade. They didn’t have the same chances we did due to the lack of resources and because it wasn’t considered important for girls to go to school. They always said that their children would have the opportunities they didn’t have.
When my mother started puberty, no one told her about the things she would experience—she was so scared. So when I became a teenager, she made sure she told me about the changes that my body would undergo, but she still didn’t tell me anything about sex. I first learned about sex education and reproductive health from Plan International. It was only then that my mother and I were able to openly talk about these issues.
When my mother joined Plan International’s Protection Network, she received parenting advice and learned about children’s rights. Often, girls in my community move in with their boyfriends around the age of 13. By the age of 17, they are back living at their parents’ home with as many as three children to look after because their boyfriends have abandoned them. Most of my cousins on my mother’s side who are my age already have children. My mother says that it has a lot to do with the way people think and the opportunities they have.
Thanks to Plan, I have learned a lot about what I could do if I didn’t marry young. And, thanks to the guidance on sexual health and reproductive rights, I learned how to say “no.” I understand the kind of life I want for me and my family.
Through my youth group, my friends and I have traveled to many places where we share our experiences and learn how boys and girls are treated in different communities. We are able to speak freely about the issues that threaten girls, such as violence and child marriage. We are the voice of all the girls we meet.
I have seen for myself how adults have changed their minds significantly regarding gender equality. One time, there was a man in a community meeting who thought that pushing or pulling someone by their hair was not an act of violence. I helped him understand that violence can be expressed in many ways.
With my youth group, I developed the ability to speak in public. Before, I was embarrassed of speaking up because I thought I was wrong. Now, I know that my ideas are valid and that I should share them with others.
When Plan International held a consultation on children’s rights and young leaders in the communities, I was able to start working with them as a consultant, first in Jalapa and now at the Country Office. I am an assistant for the sponsorship unit, and I like my job here. I have learned a lot and I feel very responsible, because any mistake can create confusion about the sponsored children and their sponsors.
Getting involved with Plan International is a great way to help the lives of young people in our communities. It opens the door to different opportunities and helps parents support their children.