What do you do when you want to go to school but can’t? From a young age, Teolina was taught to beg for money and work in the fields in the remote highlands of Peru. She lives in Sarabamba, a beautiful mountain town where the lifeblood of the community is agriculture. There is only one school in town and one medical centre. Education and work opportunities are limited in the fight against poverty.
Neither of Teolina’s older brothers finished primary school, instead they began working in the fields to put food on the table for their family. Teolina’s mother, Matilde, also works in the field and begs for money. A single mother of four children, Matilde was abandoned by her parents and has raised her children alone.
When the local church saw Matilde’s situation, they enrolled Teolina into the Compassion programme at the age of six to help lighten the burden on the family. Through sponsorship, she received medical check-ups, food and was able to go to school. And as a result of this support, Teolina was the first of her siblings to finish primary school!
It was then her mum told her she couldn’t go to school anymore as she needed to go to work. Teolina says, “I felt that I had to leave my studies and start to work. I didn’t tell my tutor anything because I was ashamed.”
She started to work in the field sowing beans and corn. In the afternoon, she cleaned houses for less than a pound a day. “I remember waking up early in the morning to harvest beans and seeing my friends going to school. I did want to go to school, but I also wanted to help my mum. My heart was divided in two, so I started to believe that studying was a waste of time.”
So often, poverty isn’t just about the lack of physical things. It’s the despair that creeps in the darkness, whispering there is nothing more. It’s the mental chains that are more binding than any physical shackles could be. It’s the lies that poverty tells. Lies that says you don’t matter. That you will never be free.
But through the church and Compassion, steps are being taken to empower the local community to break free from poverty in all its forms. After Teolina had missed several project days, the project director Jorge began to look for her, worried something had happened. He says, “I went first to the school, and I was surprised to know that she was not studying. Then, I went to her house and found Teolina working in the field. Teolina looked at me with tears in her eyes. She looked tired and discouraged.”
Jorge found her mother Matilde and shared with her about the importance of education, encouraging her to let her daughter study and achieve her dreams. This year at the age of 16, Teolina returned to school and is in the eighth grade. She has made new friends. Her teachers say that she has a good future because she is hardworking and responsible.
As I’m receiving this support from Compassion, I am taking this opportunity with all my heart. I like to study and I want to become an architect. I am studying hard, and I get good grades.
Through Compassion’s Highly Vulnerable Children fund, the family are receiving regular food baskets. The church is also planning to give the family guinea pigs to breed and sell to increase their income. Teolina adds, “I am so happy to be back at the project. I love getting my sponsor’s letters. I always pray for them, because I know they pray for me. I am thankful to Jesus for taking off my shame, for releasing me from poverty step by step, and for giving me a new future.”