When poverty met undeniable hope

When poverty met undeniable hope

by Marilu Reyna
 
In December 2017, I left the familiar surroundings of home in San Antonio, Texas to travel across the world to one of the poorest countries in Europe: Moldova. After a fourteen-hour flight, we settled in at a mission house in Chisinau which would serve as our home base for the next two weeks.

The next day, I would meet Anastasia, the young lady I sponsor through CERI since February 2016. We made our way on foot, trudging through mud and slush to the humble home where Anastasia lives with her mother, as well as her sister’s eight abandoned children. Unable to hold back her tears, Anastasia’s mother recounts the day she was informed the children had been abandoned.

“I knew I had to find a way, or they would be forced to grow up in an orphanage,” she said through a translator. “I love them, and I truly believed a life of poverty would be better for them than a life without family.”

My sponsorship through CERI not only impacts one child, but an entire family. My gift helps Anastasia go to school, have basics like food, and afford transportation, all of which are vital to her daily success and future accomplishments. When Anastasia came in from school and the translator told her who I was, she hugged me. I cried. She thanked me for my support and told me how CERI had changed her life. CERI changed my life too.

I never connected my sponsorship to a real person on the receiving end, much less having the opportunity to meet her, a world away.

Seeing how this beautiful family prevailed, even in the direst of circumstances, proves that there is still good in the world and that together, family can overcome.

Read the full story below

Anastasia and Marilu

On a chilly but sunny day in December 2017, I left the familiar surroundings of home in San Antonio, Texas to travel across the world to one of the poorest countries in Europe: Moldova. It was a trip that would forever change my perspective on life – that would prove why my gift of child sponsorship is so important to a population of children without families in the former Soviet Union. I was headed out on a CERI mission trip to Moldova.

After a fourteen-hour flight, we settled in at a mission house in Chisinau which would serve as our home base for the next two weeks. I shared the space with child sponsors and volunteers who left their full-time jobs as teachers, lawyers, and accountants to take the role of CERI volunteers. The next day, I would meet Anastasia, the young lady I sponsor through CERI since 2016.

Many of the roads in the village of Butuceni, just outside of Chisinau, are unpaved. The snow and ice can make them impassable with a standard automobile. It was a bitter cold winter day. A man with a horse and buggy passed us by. Our car would not make it to our final destination, so we parked at the edge of the dirt road and made our way on foot, trudging through mud and slush to the humble home where Anastasia lives with her mother, as well as her sister’s eight abandoned children.

Moldova's rural transportation

It was a tiny two-room dwelling – no kitchen, no indoor restroom. The walls were covered in large carpets which served as insulation from the cold. Heat came from burning wood in a small, antique furnace. No couch, just mattresses nestled up against each other to provide a place for eight little ones to sleep at night.

The back-breaking work on the plot of land (where they grow vegetables) and the emotional toil of caring for her daughter’s abandoned children have taken their toll on the small-framed woman who welcomed us into her home. Her hands and face were weathered. She looked tired and overwrought with worry. 

In many cultures, if a child is left without parents, it is common for their extended family to take them in. In Moldova, this support network of family is no different, but what is different is that many extended family members do not have the resources available to help those children, with few possessing the income and space necessary to bring additional dependents under their care. However, CERI proves that the love of family can prevail, even in the most trying of times. That is what I witnessed first-hand in this small, loving home.

One of Anastasia's nephews

Anastasia and six of her eight nephews and nieces were in school, but two little boys – still too young to attend – stay at home with their grandmother (Anastasia’s mother). The children’s mother has now been estranged from the family since she left them at an orphanage.

Unable to hold back her tears, Anastasia’s mother recounts the day she was informed the children had been abandoned. For her, it was unfathomable to imagine that her grandchildren would grow up without a family. Although she was certain she could not afford to fully care for them, her obligation to family outweighed her practicality.

“I knew I had to find a way, or they would be forced to grow up in an orphanage,” she said through a translator. “I love them, and I truly believed a life of poverty would be better for them than a life without family.”

In Moldova and other countries throughout the world, CERI staff provide critical support and counseling with a goal of reaching a state of stability and safety for families. The Biblical principles found in Matthew 25:35-40 reflect CERI’s mission to provide dedicated and selfless service to children, youth, and families in crisis:

“For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

My sponsorship through CERI not only impacts one child, but an entire family. My gift helps Anastasia go to school, have basics like food, and afford transportation, all of which are vital to her daily success and future accomplishments. With CERI’s support, Anastasia’s family benefits from a stipend, case management to ensure their life necessities are fully met, and parenting counseling for Anastasia’s mother as she raises nine children on her own. Through CERI, Anastasia’s mother, finds some relief, but more importantly, she maintains hope and optimism in the possibility that Anastasia will have a better future in the coming years, and that she will also be able to help support the family.

In addition to year-round support, CERI also helps families in Moldova survive the brutal winters through food packages, firewood, and winter boots for children. I am overwhelmed with gratitude by how sponsorship gifts are multiplied to provide so much for families in need.

When Anastasia came in from school and the translator told her who I was, she hugged me. I cried. She thanked me for my support and told me how CERI had changed her life. CERI changed my life too. You see, I give to CERI knowing my sponsorship will be used to help someone in need. I never connected my sponsorship to a real person on the receiving end, much less having the opportunity to meet her, a world away. Seeing how this beautiful family prevailed, even in the direst of circumstances, proves that there is still good in the world and that together, family can overcome. I thank CERI for allowing me to be part of this inspirational work.

Join Marilu and change the life of a child like Anastasia today.