Mara Hennen, Common Hope Accounting Manager, is in Guatemala this week. Below, she reflects on her third visit with Pablo, her sponsored student.
By my third visit with Pablo, things felt familiar. Pablo was smiling widely when I arrived. His mom showed us the kitchen they added on to their block house, as well as the award they won for keeping up their house so well. Pablo brought out schoolwork from his favorite class, Artes Plásticos, a kind of art or design class. Artistry runs in his family—his dad has painted beautiful murals around their house, and his brother does artistic work with wood.
We talked about cooking, since Pablo had recently written about wanting to become a chef. His mom described how helpful it is that he can work his way around the kitchen. I played with his little cousin, and we all laughed. We shared Pepsi and chocolate cake.
Before I left, Pablo gave me the welcome sign he’d made that morning, complete with 35 smiley faces, and his mom gifted me a beautiful scarf she’d knit. His mom and grandma told me to visit again next year, and Pablo suggested maybe we could play soccer again, like we had during my last visit. While driving back to the project, their social worker mentioned how quickly they’d worked the hours for their block house. She described Pablo’s mom as an incredibly responsible parent that works hard to utilize all of Common Hope’s services. I was not surprised, and as if I had something to do with it, I felt proud.
Each visit has touched me. Admittedly, I still get a little nervous beforehand. Even with letters and visits, we don’t know each other well. Our lives feel inherently different. And yet, we’ve shared something really human. There is affection between us. I sense it in Pablo’s spontaneous smiles, in the strength of his hugs. I appreciate that his somewhat reserved nature belies deep warmth, in part because I can relate to it. I hope that he follows the path of his older brother and graduates from high school. Mostly, I know that accomplishment would impact his future. But also, I just plain like the kid, and I’d love to see his smile in a graduation gown.
Being back in Guatemala, I’m reminded how deeply content I am with my monthly $30 donation. I absolutely do not need that money. I know my life may change at some point, but for now, I barely feel the expense. On the other hand, Pablo’s family faces huge economic challenges, and they benefit greatly from Common Hope’s support. In big ways, life dealt Pablo and me unequal cards. This reality is so irksome and unfair. Sponsoring his family, however, is something I can do to combat an inequity that I don’t understand. If Pablo does indeed follow in his brother’s footsteps, he will graduate in about four years. For all that time, I am committed to my small part of his story.