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Sponsorship jumpstarts a mom's community activism

A 28-year-old Nicaraguan mother teaches others in her community about how to improve their well-being after her daughter benefited from a World Vision-supported nutrition class.

April 2008

World Vision's training and support have equipped Engracia Bernes (center) to teach other women in her community about healthy family relationships, nutrition, and proper health.
World Vision's training and support have equipped Engracia Bernes (center) to teach other women in her community about healthy family relationships, nutrition, and proper health.
Photo ©2008 Miriam Diaz/World Vision
Engracia Brenes is an example of how World Vision's sponsorship program benefits children and parents alike — giving opportunities for both groups to achieve their God-given potential.

After her daughter's health improved because of a World Vision-supported nutrition class in her Nicaraguan community several years ago, the 28-year-old was inspired to see beyond the challenges of her difficult life and reach out to others in need in her impoverished community.

The direct, plainspoken mother of two clearly possesses raw leadership ability, coupled with a deep empathy for the struggles of others. A citizen of Nicaragua, the poorest country in the Americas after Haiti, Engracia also knows firsthand what it is to go without.

Poverty's heavy cost

Because of the few economic opportunities in her village of San Pietralcine (referred to as 'San Pio' by local residents), some 70 miles from the Nicaraguan capital of Managua, she and her husband were forced to make a painful decision five years ago.

He moved to Costa Rica to land work at a drilling company, allowing him to send his wife and their two small children — Ana, 7, and José Alcides, 4 — $150 per month to scrape by. A small sum by U.S. standards, it is twice the average $75 per month most Nicaraguan families earn.

The additional income has come at quite a high price for the young mother, however. "I feel lonely because I see my husband every four months. It is a great sacrifice for me not to have him here," she says. "Sometimes that money he sends me is not enough, and I have to make little bit more from a small pulperia [a small grocery stand], because I have to pay for electricity and water bills."

Nutrition program leads to community activism

After World Vision arrived in San Pio several years ago, Ana was enrolled in the sponsorship program, as well as a class for underweight children and their moms. Engracia learned to cook healthier meals for her daughter and newborn son.

Impressed with Ana's improved health, the young mom asked World Vision staff how she could get involved to help others. They enrolled her in a six-month course that equipped her to train other San Pio moms about how to improve their families' health.

"I feel that my self-esteem has improved a lot," she says, describing how working with World Vision has affected her. "I feel that I am a more useful woman to my community, and all the training sessions I have participated in are like a university program I could never take because I barely reached ninth grade in secondary school."

A full-fledged community activist

Engracia is particularly excited about the opportunity she's had to assist other women by coordinating hygiene campaigns and teaching about nutrition and healthy family relationships.

"I took part in a course called 'Escuela en Familia' ['Family School'], in which I learned a lot about how to improve my family relations, how to strengthen my self-esteem, and how to develop better communication with my children. Now, I share that knowledge with other women from my community through talks," she says.

"I admit that I have worked hard to be better each day so that I can help my community. Now I am participating in a course about breastfeeding, early [childhood education], and AIDS, so that I can share that information with my community," Engracia adds. "It pleases me to help my community develop!"

Learn more

>> "Country profile: Nicaragua," published by the BBC , provides an overview on why Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere.

Three ways you can help

>> Thank God for gifting Engracia with confidence to lead and empathize with the needs of others, which has made her an invaluable instrument of positive change in her community. Pray for other families worldwide who are trying to build a better world for children.
>> Sponsor a child in Nicaragua. Your support can help not just a child, but also his or her entire family to reach their God-given potential.
>> Help create a brighter future for girls and women like Engracia by purchasing a life-changing gift through World Vision's Gift Catalog.

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