An emotional visit 15 years in the making

Sara, Aura, Toni, and Becky

Toni Pflueger and her daughters Sara and Becky traveled to Antigua earlier this November to attend Common Hope’s graduation ceremony. It was Sara’s second trip to Guatemala, but the first for Toni and Becky. All three felt that attending graduation was an exciting opportunity, one that doesn’t come around often. To make their trip even more memorable, it was their first time meeting Aura, the student the Pflueger family had sponsored for 15 years.

The decision to sponsor
Toni Pflueger, her husband Gary, and their three children got involved with Common Hope in the mid 1990’s when the organization was called “The Godchild Project.” Their son Ben and their daughter Sara had traveled to Antigua on some of our first Vision Teams. It was after Sara returned from her trip in 1999, when Toni decided to become a sponsor because she felt it was a great opportunity for her family to help out someone in need.

The first photo Toni received of Aura in 1999.

The first photo Toni received of Aura in 1999.

In December of 1999, the Pflueger family started sponsoring Aura, who was 4-years-old at the time. When Aura was little, Toni looked forward to receiving letters and pictures from her. Time seemed to fly by – another year would pass and they would receive a photo of Aura, astounded by how much she had grown.

Toni said that in the 15 years they exchanged letters back and forth, Aura always conveyed how determined she was to be successful. Even though they had never met, Toni could tell Aura was focused on her studies and worked hard in school.

Toni always had the desire to visit Aura in Guatemala, but there were always circumstances which made the trip difficult to plan. When she received notice of Aura’s upcoming graduation, Toni’s daughter Sara decided that she wanted her mom to have the opportunity to meet Aura and see her graduate.

A meeting 15 years in the making
On Thursday morning before graduation, Toni and her daughters visited Aura at her home in Ciudad Vieja. Meeting Aura for the first time was very emotional for both Toni and Aura’s mother, María. Toni described the moment saying, “We got pictures of Aura and letters for 15 years, but it’s not the same. It’s kind of like having a little girl and getting updates on her growing up but never actually meeting her in person. And then there she was. And she was so beautiful.”

(left to right) María (mom), Becky, Francisca (sister), Toni, Aura, Sara

(left to right) María (mom), Becky, Francisca (sister), Toni, Aura, Sara

They visited Aura and her family for about an hour, sharing Coca-Colas and conversation. As one can imagine, they had many questions for each other about the last 15 years and Aura’s plan for the future. Toni said the time they spent with Aura’s family went far too fast, but she and her daughters enjoyed every minute. After the visit was over, Toni looked back on the experience and said, “it was like closure, but I don’t want to say it’s closure because I hope it’s not the end. What I want it to be is another beginning. It’s closure for this part of Aura’s life but maybe an opening for the next part.”

Toni, Sara, and Becky got to spend time with Aura and her family again on Saturday before graduation. They sat down for a picnic lunch before the ceremony and took many photos. Though Toni and her family won’t be sponsoring Aura any longer, Toni said,

“They’re always going to be part of our life. They’ve been in our lives for 15 years. I’m always going to wonder what she’s doing now or how her family is doing.”

Encouraging others to become sponsors
Toni has plans to sponsor another student, a girl in 8th or 9th grade. Personally, she feels it’s important to continue to support education. She also encourages others to consider sponsorship since she has witnessed firsthand what a difference it can make in a student’s life. She said, “Education is really the key to everything. Education will get you to wherever you want go someday. I didn’t have that, but I made sure all my kids had that, even my sponsored kid. It gets you a better job, more income, and the opportunity to have a better future.”

If you’re interested in becoming a sponsor, visit our Sponsorship Page for more information, call Jessie Szopinski at 651-917-1045 or email her at

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