What does life look like for a 12-year-old girl around the world?
Are the challenges Ariane faces in the islands of the Philippines the same as those troubling Esther in the foothills of Arusha, Tanzania? In rural Colombia, does Dayana enjoy the activities that Shamika loves across the ocean in Haiti?
Do they have same chores, fears and dreams?
While these four 12-year-olds share similarities and face unique challenges, one thing is certain: with the support of their families, communities, sponsors and Compassion centres at their local churches, they are unstoppable. On International Day of the Girl, these resilient and ambitious girls share their stories.
The girl with her heart in the sea
“I love to go out to the deep sea with my father, but of course, they tell me that is not a thing for young girls to do… but I do it anyway because I want to help my family.”
About Ariane: Ariane and her family live by the sea on the island of Mindoro. Her goal is to help her parents in all she does—even if that means challenging traditional gender roles by hauling in the fishing nets.
“I am the third child. I have two older brothers and one younger sister. My father is a fisherman and my mother sells second-hand clothes in the market.”
A day in the life: “For me, a typical day is me helping the family, but I really enjoy the sea, just walking along the shore and swimming. I cook breakfast and wash my clothes. There isn’t much to do the rest of the day because of the pandemic.”
My dreams: “I want to be a flight attendant. But whatever job I do, I just want to help my parents when I grow up. Being sponsored motivates me to study well because I know my sponsor is supporting me. I would tell other girls to always be obedient to your parents and study well.”
Challenges I face as a girl: “One thing that is hard about being a girl in this community is that we can’t fish. I love to go out to the deep sea with my father but of course, they tell me that is not a thing for young girls to do… but I do it anyway because I want to help my family.
It’s hard being a girl during the pandemic. I am just doing so many house chores now because we can’t do anything else. I’m just here at home, always. As the older daughter, I am expected to cook and wash the dishes.”
What sponsorship means to me: “I am thankful for my sponsor. He is like a father to me, only he lives in another country. A sponsor means someone is supporting me and believes in me and hopes I will be successful in the future. And someone is praying for me.”
The girl who loves to learn
“I would tell other girls to pay attention in class and not to be afraid of asking questions if they don’t understand the teacher.”
About Esther: Esther lives at the base of volcanic Mt. Meru. Her dream of becoming a teacher almost ended in her first year of primary school when her father passed away, but being in the Compassion program ensured she could stay in the classroom.
“I live with my grandmother and my brother, while my youngest sister lives with my mother. I started living with my grandmother after the death of my father.”
A day in my life: “During the weekdays, I normally wake up, prepare for school and then do chores when I get back from school. But on the weekend, I wake up, do the dishes, clean the house, read a little then go visit my mother or my aunt.”
My dreams: “My dream is to be a primary school teacher. Being sponsored has helped me to stay in school and provide for all my needs. I used to fear being sent home because of [unpaid] school fees… I never wanted to experience that.
I would tell other girls to pay attention in class and not to be afraid of asking questions if they don’t understand the teacher. My sponsor pushes me to be better in school. Last year when I was doing my national exam, her words helped me to pass the exam.”
Challenges I face as a girl: “Nothing is hard about being a girl in this community, but the pandemic is tough because we are stuck inside the house. I was used to waking up and going to school and going to visit my aunt. I go to my aunt for advice. I just love her. She used to live with us before she got married. But my mother wants us to stay inside all the time.”
What sponsorship means to me: “Being sponsored means I get to go to school. I always love reading my sponsor’s letters. She is always encouraging me to keep doing well in school.”
The girl who bravely faces a bright future
Content warning: This section includes mention of rape and sexual abuse
“Sometimes I feel afraid of walking through my town because people are smoking and taking drugs, and I am afraid they want to steal or hurt me.”
About Dayana: Dayana lives in dusty Cordoba in the country’s north with her parents and four siblings. Seeing how crime affects her beloved community fuels her dream of becoming a police officer.
“I live with my parents. I have a sister called Camila and three brothers: Fidel, Juan and Johan. I also have a nephew named Duván. My father works as a labourer and my mother is a housewife.”
A day in my life: “I get up at 6 a.m. I brush my teeth and comb my hair and then make the beds. I go to the store to buy coffee for my grandma, and then I help my mother by sweeping and doing the dishes. In the afternoon, I do my homework and later play soccer with my brothers or go to ride my bike. Some days in the afternoon, I mend my clothes.”
My dreams: “In the future, I want to have a house, a good family and a good job. I want to become a police officer. At the Compassion centre, I learn values and they will help me in my career. I would encourage other girls keep to studying—do not abandon your studies.”
Challenges I face as a girl: “Sometimes I feel afraid of walking through my town because people are smoking and taking drugs, and I am afraid they want to steal or hurt me. In my neighbourhood, there have been cases of rape and sexual abuse. It makes me feel afraid.”
What sponsorship means to me: “My sponsor’s name is Erin. She prays a lot for me and puts me in God’s hands. I know she will always be with me. My sponsor’s support allows me to be part of the Compassion centre. She encourages me through her letters and gifts. She advises me to be a good girl, to learn values and to continue studying. I love her very much.”
The girl with bright music and deep faith
“Life is getting harder and harder and conditions are not easy. I find my comfort in my faith in Jesus and the importance that I give to my education.”
About Shamaïka: Shamaïka lives in Cité Soleil, one of the largest slums in the Northern Hemisphere. Danger and crime mean she spends much of her time at home, but the gifted musician dreams of giving back to help others.
“I live with my father, my mother, my three sisters and my two brothers. I am the third child in the family. My mother sometimes does business and my father is a motorcycle taxi driver.”
A day in my life: “When I wake up, first I pray with the family during our daily morning devotion, then I shower and I do the housework if it’s my day. We share the tasks at home depending on the day of the week. I clean the house and go to get some water. Because of the insecurity in the area, my parents don’t let me go out often, and also because of COVID-19.
Sometimes I play games with my brothers and sisters. I also love to sing and play the flute. Music is a passion and it helps me feel better. I could spend hours playing the flute. I miss being able to play music at my school and at my church. Now, I play for family members.”
My dreams: “I like singing and music a lot, but I want to become a nurse. I am very grateful for all the support I have had so far in my life, which is why I would like to make a career in a field that allows me to help people, too. One of the beautiful things that has happened to me in my life is being a beneficiary of Compassion. The support has brought a lot of change for me and my family.”
Challenges I face as a girl: “Being a girl in certain areas is sometimes difficult. Crime is the biggest problem in my area and the main danger. Life is getting harder and harder and conditions are not easy. I find my comfort in my faith in Jesus and the importance that I give to my education. My best advice would be to always trust God and take your studies seriously.”
What sponsorship means to me: “Being sponsored is a blessing from God and an extraordinary thing. I sometimes receive letters where my sponsor reminds me that I am special and how he loves me. It means a lot to me. Finding someone you have never met who cares for you and believes in your dreams is priceless.”
Thousands of girls like Ariane, Esther, Dayana and Shamaïka are waiting for a sponsor. On International Day of the Girl, you can be the difference in the life of a girl.
Words by Zoe Noakes and Alyssa Esparaz. Photos and field reporting by Edwin Estioko (Philippines), Eric D. Lema (Tanzania), Lina Marcela Alarcón Molina (Colombia) and Erick Jura (Haiti).