Guatemala: 5 things I learned visiting our sponsored child

18-year-old Acacia travelled on dirt roads through the windy mountainous regions of Guatemala with her family to meet Wilbur; the boy whose letters and photos have been in their lives since they sponsored him four years ago.

 

By Acacia, Guatemala child sponsor

In January this year we got to meet Wilbur, our sponsored child from Guatemala. It was amazing to finally meet the person that we have been sponsoring for so long; it made him seem real to me.

 

            "We send Wilbur Christmas and birthday cards every year; although, we didn’t really have a personal                                 connection to this one person on the other side of the world. But going there, you realise that Wilbur does                       exist and he has his own life and what we’re doing by sponsoring him does make a difference."

 

I learned a lot while travelling to Guatemala – here are some of the things I didn’t know.

1) It was quite an adventure for our families to meet
It was quite an adventure to meet Wilbur, or was it an ordeal? We travelled half way across the world from Sydney, Australia to Antigua, Guatemala. There we were picked up by Jose from World Vision, and embarked on a five hour car trip to an isolated mountain community. Jose was a fantastic World Vision ambassador who filled us in on everything, from the culture to the language and about the struggles that people like Wilbur and his family are facing. Wilbur, on the other hand, had a long trip as well. He travelled with his mum and little sister from their remote home in the hillside to meet us in the nearest community.

2) Spanish was Wilbur’s second language
In Guatemala they speak Spanish and so do my mum and I. However, we learned that the indigenous communities often speak their own language, making Spanish their second language. We asked about his brothers and sisters, what he liked to do and we chatted with his mother as well.

3) Receiving an education isn’t as simple as it is here
We learned that parents in these communities aren’t particularly keen about their children being educated because they’d rather have them stay at home to help out…

 

            "…It’s not just about educating the children it’s also about educating the parents – so that they support their                   kid’s education. It’s kind of like survival takes priority and education came second."

 

Another problem was malnourishment – diets in these mountain areas aren’t well balanced; they just ate what was available to them because there wasn’t much variety or many options up there.

 

              "I was shocked that low nutrition levels meant that they couldn’t do well at school and I didn’t realise how                      big an effect it had on them."

 

Children tend to repeat grades a lot because malnutrition means they are not able to learn at such a quick rate.

4) We’re lucky to live in Australia and to have the opportunity to visit and build that connection
The trip made me more appreciative of everything. It’s like a whole different world over here compared to where Wilbur is. You realise that we’re really lucky. Our family gave Wilbur a soccer ball and some toys for his little sister. We went outside and my dad and I played a game of soccer against Wilbur and the World Vision team. This is when it all became more fun.

 

            "Playing soccer with Wilbur was my highlight. To top it off, he was quite the little soccer star and scored                           against my dad."

 

I hope that seeing us has made it easier for Wilbur to know who we are now too, and gave him an insight into who his sponsors are and more about Australia. We have a special place in our hearts for Wilbur, his mum and baby sister now that we have met them.

5) I understand more about the difficulties of life in Guatemala and how we help
It was a beautiful experience and was really eye-opening. I think it’s good for sponsors in Australia to understand what their money is going towards.

 

             "Meeting Wilbur just opened my eyes to a whole different culture and I was able to understand the                                     difficulties in their life."

 

Seeing it firsthand helps you understand why people in these communities might struggle – where there are fall backs and you believe that you are making a difference and that’s why I think it’s worth supporting. The trip was definitely worth it. It’s nice to know exactly who the Birthday and Christmas cards are going to, and you realise firsthand the impact our support makes in their communities.

Interested in visiting your sponsored child? Find out more

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