“Do you feel poor?”
That’s how Henry Flores, director of the Unbound communications center in El Salvador, began his conversation with Ashley, a sponsored 15 year old from Costa Rica.
A difficult question to ask; an even tougher one to answer.
How could a teenager living in a poor community behind one of the largest shopping malls in the area, where she and her mother, Juana, can only see the walls that hide their reality from the beauty and fantasy of the department stores, answer a question like that?
“Here, where we live, it’s not even ours,” Ashley said, pointing to the walls of sheet metal. “Little by little, it’s falling apart. Sometimes I ask myself, ‘What can I do?'”
One of Ashley’s biggest wishes is to have a bit more money so she could move her mother somewhere nicer and to give her a better life.
“[My mother] is my super hero, the best for me,” Ashley shared. “She has always told me, ‘Your education comes first, don’t ever leave this behind.”
Ashley has been sponsored through Unbound since she was 10, and the sponsorship has helped her have better access to education. But it’s not just Ashley that’s been helped by the sponsorship.
Years ago Juana was noticeably depressed.
“I used to wake up and go to school and she would stay in bed,” said Ashley. “When I returned from school, she would still be in bed.”
Since joining Unbound and the mothers group called Unity and Hope, there has been a definite change — for the better.
“Nowadays, she is very active,” Ashley described. “The mothers tell her ‘Let’s do this, let’s do that!’ … Now it’s me who wants to stay home!”
The support Juana received from the group began to extend into other areas too.
“I now see joy in her eyes, she even looks and feels younger,” Ashley said. “… I see my mom giving me love now. Her love is irreplaceable to me, as well as God’s love.”
Encouraging Ashley to showcase her talents as a singer is just one way Juana supports her. Last year, Juana urged Ashley to take part in her school’s arts festival.
“This was a way for me to express myself,” Ashley said. “Nobody really cared about me before, but when I sing, people pay attention and I feel important.”
With a new sense of confidence and encouragement from her mother and the rest of the women from the mothers group, it’s easy to believe that Ashley’s personal motto is to never give up.
“I know all people can be more” she said. “Many don’t do it because they don’t have the means, but one thing I am sure of, I have hope that I will go really far in life.”
So back to the question at hand.
“Do you feel poor?” Henry asked.
“Not really,” Ashley answered. “To me, poor are the people who can’t imagine a happy future, and rich are those who can dream, create, live. To me, this is wealth.”
Pay attention and make someone feel important today. Sponsor a youth.