In our previous post, we talked about what it means to meet a child’s physical needs. Ensuring a child’s body is healthy is vital to their growth and development. But just as a plant needs more than water to thrive, a child needs more than physical nourishment to reach their fullest potential.
Poverty places children at physical risk, but it also places them at risk of damage within. It robs them of the belief that they matter, that they have value and that they can dream of—and achieve—a different future. This can hinder a child’s ability to form positive relationships with others and to make healthy decisions as they grow into an adult. Breaking down destructive thought patterns and helping children see themselves for who they really are—beloved by God and capable of changing their circumstances—is vital to helping them break free from emotional poverty. But it isn’t easy.
That’s where tutors come in. Every child registered in Compassion’s program is partnered with a tutor from their centre. Each tutor gets to know the children in their care. They meet with their family, help them with schoolwork and mentor them through each stage of life.
Registered in Compassion’s program in Nicaragua when he was seven years old, Junior behaved in a manner a counsellor might refer to as oppositional defiance. He refused to participate or cooperate in any capacity—with adults or other children—and his default emotion was anger. Despite his mother’s attempts to help him and the regular care of the centre psychologist, Junior struggled to develop relationships and make positive decisions.
When he grew older, Junior’s attendance at his Compassion centre began to wane as he started working with his father. Celia Jarquín, Junior’s tutor, knew that without intervention Junior would likely drop out altogether. She also suspected that giving him more hands-on projects at the centre might help him feel more invested, so she invited Junior to sign up for an upcoming pastry-making workshop she was teaching. To her surprise, he agreed.
Junior discovered a new skill in pastry-making and thrived under Celia’s encouragement. He did so well, in fact, that she asked him to be her teaching assistant at the next workshop. “I thought he might change if I gave him the chance,” says Celia. “Sometimes children only need a vote of confidence, need to feel that we trust them.”
As Celia continued to show her trust in his abilities, Junior began to transform—instead of being disrespectful and disruptive, he was helping keep the class on track and tutoring his peers. When a third workshop was offered, Celia asked Junior to teach it, and she stepped into the role of his assistant.
“He needed to trust in himself and needed someone to trust in him too,” says Celia. “Sometimes, because of so much work, parents don’t give children the support they need. But what children need is their motivation, to have someone behind them saying, ‘You can do it!’”
Junior, now a high school student, has dreams to pursue an engineering degree and, with the skills he learned at his church, hopes to open a pastry shop on the side. He also continues to attend activities at his Compassion centre regularly. “I feel good at the centre because I learn many things here,” he says. “I feel motivated and loved here.”
Junior is just one example of many who is receiving the emotional support and stability he needs to thrive and succeed, thanks to sponsorship. In our next post, we’ll talk about cognitive—or mental—development, and the important role it plays in releasing a child from poverty.