More than a day’s work

By Juliet Hanafie, Project Coordinator

When you receive a letter, a drawing, or the annual photo and report of your sponsored child, have you ever stopped and wondered about the person on the other side – the World Vision staff member who sits with your sponsored child while they’re writing their letters, and who personally delivers your replies? Who are they?

Vilma Hernandez Villatoro is one of these staff members. She is a hardworking and family-oriented 20-something who was born and raised in the mountainous Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Vilma lives nearly 100kms from her family and new husband, catching a costly, 2.5-hour bus ride home each Friday night after work, before returning at dawn every Monday morning. But for Vilma, the opportunity to have furthered her career while working with vulnerable communities, and seeing the smiles on the children’s faces, makes these hardships worthwhile.

“I have had the blessing and opportunity that World Vision gave me to start work as a Sponsorship Data Typist. My role was to enter all the records of the children into the system. It was nice work because I was able to see the situation of each child, only on paper, but also knowing about their family and tastes, and remember some of the children’s faces in my mind. Now I am a Sponsorship Coordinator and although it is a much larger role, it’s very rewarding to meet the children, support them and ensure their welfare.” To get to the communities to visit the children, Vilma often has to catch a bus, followed by a long walk into the villages – as the motorcycles used by the project offices are not always available. The closest community is three hours away – the furthest is five.

Much of Vilma’s work is challenging – from spending time apart from her family, to ensuring the sponsorship program meets donor’s expectations, particularly in areas where families are often away from their homes to harvest coffee. During the week, Vilma lives in a share-house with a small group of colleagues who are also living away from their families. She and her housemates – all World Vision employees – walk to the office together each day, but often finish at different times. Many nights, Vilma works late and walks home alone. Vilma spoke to us about these challenges.

“Going between work and family, my family know that I love my work because it helps benefit the vulnerable children. Also, a big challenge is to meet the requirements of our sponsors. In my country, the migration of our children and families is high and although families are learning about new ways of life so that they can stay in their community, it is a challenge to meet the requirements such as delivering sponsors’ letters on time.”

Despite these challenges, it is evident that Vilma loves her job. In particular, she’s encouraged by the sponsorship program and the different ways in which it transforms children and communities. In Guatemala, World Vision works across many different projects. From combating malnutrition and other illnesses by teaching mothers about basic healthcare, to contributing to the reduction of family violence, to increasing the quality of education in schools, and to teaching environmental conservation and disaster risk management. None of these projects would be possible without the support of sponsors.

As Vilma told us, “Every day I enter my office with a smile because I love what I do. Every day is a new learning and I enjoy every moment because in my hands I can see the love and support that the sponsors give our children, such as a letter to a child, where you can see that someone from some faraway place cares about their welfare.”