In this story:
- How to fight poverty through entrepreneurship
- Ways the local church helps overcome physical and spiritual hunger
- How creativity can lift families from poverty
Pinks, reds, oranges and blues—these are the bold and beautiful colours that crowded young Estrella’s head years ago as she sat on her bedroom floor sketching out piñata models in her school notebooks. When she closed her eyes, she dreamt in vivid colours and shapes. Today, customers line up at her home to purchase her piñata creations.
But the journey hasn’t been easy.
Living in Leon, Nicaragua, Estrella and her family were surrounded by colour in the cultural capital. At the centre of the city, you’ll find beauty in many forms—from art galleries and museums to the vivid hues of architecture and cathedrals.
Although the city thrives in creativity and architecture, the people of Leon have seen much loss. After the Nicaraguan civil war, the communities outside of the city centre experienced upheaval, leaving many children like Estrella in single parent homes with little income and limited access to education.
At 8-years-old, Estrella’s grandmother decided to enroll her at the local Compassion centre at Lambs of the King Church, when she saw how much the program was helping other children in the area.
But it wasn’t always the easiest space for Estrella to thrive in.
“I could see that [Estrella’s] family had great need, and despite being very smart, she would never speak to anyone,” says Xiomara (pronounced see-o-mar-ra), the Director at Estrella’s Compassion Centre.
To help nudge Estrella out of her shell, Xiomara encouraged her to get involved in the centre’s more creative and social activities—like youth meetings, small groups and music lessons. Pretty soon, Estrella was hooked.
“I started feeling excited about going to the centre,” she says. “I felt comfortable and supported there.”
Empty stomachs and loss of hope
Just as things started looking up for Estrella, her family situation took a turn for the worst. Estrella’s mother lost her job and her grandmother was diagnosed with diabetes, hypertension and arthritis. It left the family without money for necessities like food.
Most days, Estrella would go to school with an empty, sore stomach, constant headaches, and a feeling of hopelessness.
“I didn’t have a steady job,” says Estrella’s mother, Rosa. “And one of my two other children was sick. It broke my heart to send [Estrella] to school without food.”
When her Compassion centre realized the situation, they immediately connected Estrella to the Highly Vulnerable Children fund, a gift reserve that gives families in great need a monthly allowance to purchase things like groceries, clothes and hygiene products.
For a year and a half, Estrella and her family received assistance from the HVC fund until Rosa, was able to find a steady job that provided for her family’s needs.
The making of a “piña-trepreneur”
In 2018, Estrella’s Compassion centre offered a handicraft vocational course for students to handmake useful and decorative objects to sell. Eager to make her little paper piñata dream come to life, Estrella jumped at the chance to enroll.
In the workshop, Estrella learned how to make her piñatas bigger and sturdier. Pretty soon, Estrella’s piñatas caught the attention of her community, so she decided to create a small business.
“Suddenly there were a lot of customers,” says Estrella’s grandmother. “We had people from neighbouring communities coming to see her piñatas. There were a lot of customers who would ask for several at once!”
A crafter and a Christian
Not only has the support of Lambs of the King church empowered Estella to start and sustain her small business, they have helped her come to love Jesus with her whole life.
In 2016, Estrella was baptized.
“I’m happy to know that the seeds of the word of the Lord that we’re planting in childrens’ hearts are producing fruit already,” says Xiomara. “We try to give them as much support as we can in the spiritual area, and we consider it a success when children like Estrella show their love for the Lord.”
Today, Estrella continues to sell her handmade piñatas, while attending school and serving God. With her mom, her grandma and her local Compassion church staff by her side, she is escaping poverty, and finally living in full colour.
Today, millions of kids like Estrella face major barriers like hunger.
They are not able to learn or do the things they love because they lack their most vital needs. When you give to the Urgent Needs fund, you are helping highly vulnerable kids like Estrella get their pressing needs met, so they can get back to living out their dreams, and living a full life.
Words by Laura Phillips, field reporting and photos by Junieth Dinarte