Changing lives

I became a madrina to little Gessell Garcia last year. This bright, affectionate girl is in preschool and just beginning her educational journey. Although she’s nearly 2,000 miles away, I feel closer to her every month as we exchange news about our families and lives. I don’t speak Spanish, so a Padrino team member translates my letters to her and her responses.

I’m deeply touched by the growing bond between us. She sends me drawings not just of herself but of me and my dog (who she hopes to be friends with someday). It’s her way of communicating with me until she learns to read and write. I recently gave her art supplies for her birthday. Each month, her drawings get better.

She wants to be a teacher. It amazes and humbles me that just $50 a month can help her achieve that goal, to give back to her community and give others a way out of poverty.

I’m so grateful that I have the means to help her dreams come true, to support her schooling as she finds her unique way in the world. Guatemalan girls like her too often end up married and raising kids before they’ve had a chance to grow up themselves. They never have a chance to learn all they can be. I would like to give Gessell more choices in her life, more opportunities to discover all her gifts and her true calling.

I became a madrina because I was asked to help. I hoped my support would change a child’s life. What I didn’t foresee was how that child would change me.

Cathy Chapman


For more information on becoming a Padrino click here, or to sign up right away, fill in this short form.

Melany and her Padrino

Melany is a student in her second year of  middle school who has been with the program since it began in 2009. Here, we spoke to her about having a Padrino and what it means to her.

What is the name of your Padrino?


When did you meet James?

He came to volunteer when I was in 3rd grade and he was teaching music classes. He became my padrino when I was in 5th grade. I never thought then he would have been my padrino. I started receiving letters that were signed from James. The day that they were going to introduce me to my padrino, he was there, and I wasn’t sure if it was him or not. He asked me “do you know who your padrino is?” and I guessed him. I was really excited!

What is the coolest thing you have learned about James?

That he adopted a cat. Now we both have a cat!

What do you value most about your relationship with James?

He is sincere, and he always helps me with English and encourages me not to give up. I don’t like math either but he tells me I have to continue studying, even when I don’t want to. He is my motivation and the reason that I continue to move forward.

What does your padrino mean to you?

He is a blessing to me because he is another form of help, because there is no other person besides my parents that has supported  me with my studies,  and no other person that says “I’m going to help you in school.” There are people that really care about children and that is admirable, and I admire James because even though he’s young, he’s taking being a padrino seriously.

Do you want to say anything to people who are interested in becoming Padrinos?

Yes. There are many children that need the support, because they often stop studying and going to classes because they feel upset, and they don’t have a support system. But if they have the support, they are more likely to keep going to school. I think kids should have a padrino because with James, I am happy, and he is my motivation.  I imagine that other kids would receive the motivation they need to continue studying as well.

To learn more about sponsorship click here or email

To sign up to be a Padrino please fill in this short application form

A Sponsor Visit – Suzanne Meyer

Suzanne Meyer is from Chicago, Illinois and has been a Padrino since March 2015. Her inspiration to sponsor a child came from a coworker who is actively involved in our Padrino Program.

“Well my employer is very involved in the program and I did it honestly, initially, without giving it too much thought. There was a presentation and it sounded great…and there were some pictures. But I’ll tell you, I supported that from afar, but coming here and seeing the wonderful children and seeing how engaged they are and seeing the passion of the volunteers. I mean that really showed me that I made the right decision to get involved in this program.”

This June, Susanne and her husband made a visit to our school in Ciudad Vieja to visit Carla Lorena in 3rd grade.

“Well, today was my first day to meet my little Karla and honestly words can’t describe this sweet little girl who is very shy and really just…we just connected and just snuggled our whole time together and it was just wonderful.”

The Padrino visits are an hour long and the students can choose what they want to do during that time. Many of students are excited to learn about their Padrino’s lives back home, for Susanne her student found comfort in simply sitting quietly next to her.

“Just sitting there with her and again a very shy girl and getting a little smile out of her and, I spoke a tiny bit of spanish with her so we had some interchanges and it was wonderful.”

Spending time with your ahijada/o builds a friendships and memorable experiences that truly demonstrate to the student the commitment the sponsors have in supporting the education and development of their ahijada.

“Knowing the children that are so engaged and, so happy to be here. Just to see their excitement, their enthusiasm. We take so much for granted and sometimes it’s like what’s next, what’s the next big thing we can do. And these children, are just so, it takes so little to make such a big impact for them.”

The Padrino Program currently has 340 sponsored students, our goal is to have all students sponsored by 2017. For our current Padrinos, keeping contact through letters and the occasional visit makes the sponsorship program something they continue to actively participate in.

“My experiences here make me want to continue to support Carla. Again, from afar you can see it’s a good thing but coming here and just really seeing live the impact of you guys and the children and how it all works together, the passion of everybody. I support that. Good job you guys!”

To learn more about sponsorship click here or email

To sign up to be a Padrino please fill in this short application form

Juanito’s Story

Juanito is a 9 year old student in third grade at our elementary school, El Porvenir. He loves to play and is always full of energy. Unfortunately, Juanito’s childhood has been consistently challenging. He does not have a father and his mother works in another town. She leaves for months at a time in order to support her family as a single mother. For the majority of his life he has been raised by his grandmother, aunt and uncle.

Prior to receiving help, Juanito had many problems in school. He often had difficulties following direction and getting along with his teachers. In addition he often quarrelled with his classmates and struggled academically. In order to create a better learning environment for Juanito, the psychology program, social work program and academic coordination team all collaborated to create a plan that gave Juanito the extra attention he needed to succeed in school.

Juanito began with individual therapy sessions, where he was eventually diagnosed with ADHD. After he was diagnosed, the staff worked with Juanito to build a learning plan to find the most effective way to teach him the curriculum while supporting his development. Juanito began attending refuerzo (extra classes in the afternoon for additional help with his school work). They also worked with his grandmother and uncles to assure that he was getting the attention he needed at home to keep up with his classes. They became more closely involved in his life by helping him with his homework and monitoring his behavior. With hard work, extra attention and time we could see the positive changes of Juanito’s behavior and academic performance.

At the end of the year Juanito’s mother will return and be able to provide more stability in the household, and combined with the work we have been doing this year, he will be able to succeed in his future classes. Now his attitude and concentration has improved significantly. He often demonstrates support and encouragement towards his classmates, shows interest in learning, and helps his teachers and peers when they need it. We are already working on a support plan for the upcoming year so Juanito can continue to thrive.

The names and photographs in this blog post have been changed to protect the privacy of those involved.