Meeting Elia

Two days ago I visited Elia, my sponsored child in El Salvador and so I assumed that writing about it in my blog would be relatively easy. Instead, I am struggling to find the words to adequately express the conflicting emotions I have experienced since meeting her.

Elia is 10 years old. She lives with her mother, Milena, her 13-year-old brother and her 4-year-old sister. Her father abandoned the family a few years ago, leaving them homeless and without any source of income.

The family of four now live in a crudely constructed one-room dwelling in the small town of Berlin in the east of the country. The walls and roof are made from sheets of corrugated iron, held up by several rough timber poles. There is an uneven dirt floor and there are no windows or doors. There is a shared pit-latrine, but no running water. A thin plastic hose connects to the intermittent water supply from the dwelling just in-front. This place belongs to Elia’s grandparents who help to support their daughter Milena and her children as best they can. Don Pedro, Elia’s grandfather, sells coconuts at the local market and her grandmother, well into her sixties, works in the capital, San Salvador as a housemaid, returning home for only two days every two weeks.

If I am to be really honest, the strongest emotion I feel right now is anger.
I am angry because Elia and her family have to live like this.
I am angry at the disparity between those who have and those who don’t.
I am angry at the injustice caused by corruption and greed.

Then of course there is the self-directed anger: why did I happen to win the “lottery of latitude” by being born in the minority world? Is my affluent, western lifestyle driving families like these deeper into poverty?

I have travelled enough to know that these feelings of anger, guilt and frustration are all ‘normal’ symptoms of culture shock that we experience when visiting the majority world.

But, I don’t want to be or feel ‘normal’!

I want to speak out against corruption and injustice, even if that means learning to live with less. I want to speak up on behalf of children like Elia and do everything I can to make a difference.

This is why I take my sponsorship commitment seriously. That commitment is not just financial. I pray for Elia and the simple letters and cards I send help to reinforce that she is loved and valued. It may not change the whole world, but it’s a start!


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