Christmas certainly looks different for most of the world this Christmas. And for Compassion kids around the globe, celebrations with their centre will look just as different. But staff are working tirelessly to ensure children still feel loved this Christmas, even in quarantine.
Let’s take a virtual journey around Latin America to see what Christmas celebrations look like for our beloved Compassion children and their families this year!
Christmas in Brazil
When December begins, houses around the city of Cha Grande, Brazil are decorated with string lights and ornaments. Children are beginning to dream what gift they will wish for. For some of them, Christmas is the only time of the year that they will receive a gift—and it’s often only made possible through Compassion’s church partners.
Normally, Compassion’s partners plan Christmas celebrations in their communities to bring children and their families together to celebrate the birth of Jesus. The children of Despertando Corações Child Development Centre in Cha Grande rehearse for months to perform carols in the main square of the city.
But it’s 2020, and the end of the year has not brought an end to the pandemic.
“The pandemic made everyone a little sad, and Christmas is going to be really hard with it. What makes me happy is knowing that my family and I are healthy, and that Jesus loves me,” says eight-year-old Nycolle.
Because of COVID-19, Compassion centres including Despertando Corações Child Development Centre needed to change their Christmas plans. Since it won’t be possible to gather all the children and their families in the town square, the centre plans to host an online concert for the families and friends of the centre.
Staff have also been working hard to prepare Christmas dinner kits for families, delivering them, as well as gifts for the children, to their homes. To make the deliveries even more exciting for the kids, volunteers have decorated their motorcycles with green and red ornaments and balloons!
“Despite the limitations of the pandemic, we want children and their families to be able to enjoy the beauty of Christmas and celebrate this moment at home safely. The year was very hard for everyone, but we want to show that neither Jesus nor we forget about them,” says Alessandra, the Compassion centre director.
And for children like Hérogo, their efforts have certainly paid off.
“Christmas in the centre is always very cool. It has toys, delicious food and a lot of cool games. But this year we need to stay at home because of the pandemic. It’s a little sad, but I got very happy when the centre volunteer came to my house to leave me a gift and a Christmas kit,” he says.
In addition to the gifts, the centre also held a workshop to teach the children’s mothers to how to make a simple and delicious Christmas dinner in their homes. At the end of the training, mothers received the materials and ingredients to repeat the recipes at home and celebrate with their families. They also learned to share a Christmas devotional with their families, recalling God’s blessings.
Christmas in Ecuador
In the mountainous Indigenous community of Saraguro, Ecuador, Christmas represents a vibrant time of families coming together over delicious foods. Despite the poverty which families here face, Christmas is highly anticipated.
The crops, grains, vegetables and other produce grown and harvested by locals are carefully prepared to make a tasty traditional dinner, where people share stories, laughs and well wishes as a family. But this year will be different.
In the community of Saraguro, poverty has forced many people to migrate to faraway cities and even to other countries. And this year, with the pandemic in the mix, poverty levels have increased, environmental changes have destroyed much of the crops and most migrant workers won’t be able to return home due to shortages of money and jobs.
“These are difficult times for the people of this community. They don’t have food or resources,” says Miguel, the director of the Compassion centre in Saraguro.
In a house located on a high mountain slope lives Jenny, an Indigenous mother of three. She works daily in the fields, trying to recover what little remains of the corn damaged by the hail that has pummelled her crops in recent weeks.
She’s been concerned that her children will not have enough food for Christmas this year. She’s been even more distressed that her husband—who lives and works in the Amazon—won’t have enough money to return home and spend Christmas with their family.
But her concerns, and the similar concerns of her neighbours, never went unnoticed by local Compassion centre director, Miguel.
One rainy day, Jenny’s children Josselin, Javier and Mayte spotted Miguel trudging up the mountain on the muddy road with an arm full of gifts. Tired and out of breath, Miguel made his way from home to home, distributing grocery boxes and gifts so families could have food at Christmas—boxes full of rice, flour, lentils, beans, vegetables, and lots of cookies and sweets for the children.
“I am happy because we have food for Christmas. My mother was sad, but now she is delighted,” she Josselin.
Hope returns to the families of Saraguro, as provision and food will not be lacking in the homes of the nearly 400 children who live in the area.
“My husband is far away and he will not be able to come to see us at Christmas but I do not feel alone. I feel the love of God through the brothers of the church, who never forget us,” says Jenny says with a big smile on her face.
Christmas in Guatemala
Despite the global pandemic, staff at the Belen Child Development Centre in Guatemala are ensuring that each of the 383 children at their centre has a special gift to open this Christmas. For eight-year-old Jose, it will be the only gift he receives this year.
It could be a pair of trousers, a shirt or blouse and a pair of shoes especially chosen for them to help them through these difficult times.
With centres still closed across Guatemala and mass gatherings to be avoided, staff have adapted by beautifully decorating the building and inviting parents to collect their child’s Christmas gift.
“When I told Jose about the Christmas gift, he couldn’t stop smiling and jumping around the house. He was excited about it, and me, too. It is happiness that you can’t describe when you can’t bring those kinds of gifts to your child,” says his mother Magdalena.
Each family was given a specific time to visit the centre to collect their gift. Wearing facemasks, they met up with Zuly, the centre director, who asked if they had any prayer requests and shared words of hope with them. With great anticipation, an ecstatic Jose got to collect his present from underneath the Christmas tree.
“I am thankful for Compassion because as a father, I couldn’t provide for my child. I earn less than the minimum salary, and we need to eat and educate Jose and my daughters so they can have better opportunities than my wife and I,” says Jose’s father Edy.
“This year I am so happy to receive my gift,” says Jose. “I will save it until Christmas so I can open it around my family.”
We are so thankful that because of your support, children in countries like Brazil, Ecuador and Guatemala can have a special Christmas, despite the pandemic. What are you doing this year to make this unique Christmas special?
Field reporting and photos by Nico Benalcazar (Ecuador), Javier Ellis (Guatemala) and Sara Navarro (Brazil).