During the two years that I was in Colombia, my parents were kind enough to safeguard my many boxes of junk–mostly books, papers, and CDs–in their attic. When they sold their house and moved to Nicaragua a few months ago, they insisted that I take it back. Out of sight and out of mind, those forlorn boxes then proceeded to sit in the trunk of my car until today when I finally took them out and took some time to pore over the many mementos of my life. Confieso que he vivido. So I have lived, after all. I lived as quiet as a mouse in Colombia, and this last year has been more about surviving than truly living (certainly not thriving), so I haven’t left many signs of my passing through in the last few years. Before that, however, I lived loudly, colorfully, and left lots of evidence. I was so moved to recall past stages of life via letters, pictures, and other miscellanea. One thing that especially moved me was being reminded of a special little girl named Carolay who used to be my pen pal.
Carolay was a girl that I used to sponsor through the organization Compassion International. I know that these programs are not perfect, and not everyone would be comfortable with the religious aspect of the charity. Still, it sure seems that they’re doing an awful lot of good work. I hope my sense of doing a good deed wasn’t entirely illusory or self-serving. Anyway, I started sponsoring Carolay in the Dominican Republic my senior of college–2008–and continued to do so until I moved back to the U.S. in December of 2011. I was broke as a joke at the time, and it was with great sadness that I discontinued my support as I felt I could no longer afford it. Carolay sent me so many loving letters over the years as well as drawings and pictures. Deciphering her fat curlicued cursive always took a while (I would refuse to look at the translation below), but I was always so touched by her sweetness. Here are some excerpts to give you an idea.
Gracias por acordarce de mi cumpleaños, eso me puso muy contenta. Le pido que sigas orando por mi y yo boy a orar por ti. Te quiero mucho.
Te pido que ores por mi tia que sufre de azucar para que Dios la cuide y este trancila. Espero que me escribas pronto. Con amor me despido.
Y a mi me gusta jugar el escondite con mis amigas. Me gusta maquillarme con mis amigas. Y a usted ¿le gusta maquiyarse?
¿Tiene hijos? ¿Estas en la iglesia? Yo quiero que sigas orando por mi, y recuerda que Dios te ama por siempre. Y te mando muchos abrasos. Te mando un dibujo, espero que te guste. Te quiero.
Te pido que ores para que en este nuevo año escolar me vaya bien y pueda pasar de curso. Con mucho cariño.
Yo quiero hablarte de mi amiga un poco. Mi mejor amiga que se llama Génesis Alexandra que es como mi hermana por que nos contamos todo y ella es muy muy alegre. Ella es blaca y tiene el pelo rubio y andamos para arriba y para bajo todo el tiempo.
Gracias por estar pendiente de mi y gracias por ser mi amiga. Yo quiero que ores por mi, que yo oraré por ti. Que Dios te bendiga mucho. Chao.
So, so, so, so cute. As cute as a button, this little Carolay. Oh, how I hate that I stopped supporting her and getting her precious letters. I found a card covered in flower and butterfly stickers that I had written her but apparently never sent. This was back in 2009, and it gives you an idea of my Spanish at the time.
Querida Carolay, Hola, ¿cómo estás? Gracias por escribirme una carta y por el dibujo. ¡Tú dibujas muy bien! Me gustó especialmente la cara del sol :) Es bueno que te guste estudiar lengua española–a mí me gusta estudiar la lengua y la literatura española, también. ¿Cuántos años tienes? Yo acabo de cumplir 22 años y estoy en mi último año de la universidad . . .
I also gathered together random items of interest and scribbled little notes on them. One was a postcard of Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss. On the back, I wrote:
Éste es un cuadro muy famoso. Se llama, “El Beso.” Lo vi hace 2 años cuando viajé a Europa. Está en Austria. Pienso que es muy bonito–¡me gustan las formas y los colores!
Oh, how I wish I’d sent it to her! A whole lot of good it does anyone now, sitting in a box, and now shared on a blog. Well, maybe it will give you some ideas. There are millions of ways to use and practice your Spanish, and one way could be by supporting and befriending a needy child in Latin America. Improve your Spanish and do a good deed–what could be better? I promise you that it’s so wonderful to receive their letters and be able to write back. Do you think they would care about your mistakes? Desde luego que no. For just $38 a month, your support helps to provide food and clean water, medical care, educational opportunities, important life-skills training, and Christian education. (from their website) On their website, you can even choose the country of the child. I just looked at the pictures of the kids in Colombia, and my eyes watered a little. So adorable.
I’m glad that I held on to Carolay’s letters and glad that I ran across them when I did. After a long period of inward reflection and focus, I want to reach out again to help and encourage others around me–both here in my community and abroad, especially in Colombia, pues, my adopted second country. It’s a drop in the bucket, but it’s at least something I can do to try to make one kid’s life better. Maybe even their future as well. Have you ever supported a child through a program like this? What have your experiences been like? Do you have other suggestions for how people can combine Spanish practice and giving back? I’d love to hear your ideas and stories.