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Your Sponsorship Dollars at Work: Juan Diego Japa

I met the Japas in July, 2014, at CETAP-Lucy. Two grubby little boys, wearing rags, were gleefully playing on the tiny swing set. Their parents, Salvador and Nelly, sat on the porch step talking with Rocío Illescas, the Director of CETAP-Lucy, a center for early stimulation & psycho-educational support found in the rural community of Chilcapamba. The eldest son, Juan Diego, age 10, shyly approached me and said in English, “Hello.  How are you?”

The family of five had just moved from the Amazon region, and was renting a single basement room in Chilcapamba. They had obtained a $2,000 bank loan and had used all of their savings to buy a truck so that Salvador, a skilled plumber and handyman, could start a business. But the police had come to tell Salvador that because the person who sold the truck to him had failed to pay the tax on it, the vehicle would be confiscated. Salvador and Nelly were left with no transportation, no means of support and huge debt. They heard that Rocío at CETAP-Lucy might be able to help them.

Nine months later, and things are a little better. It is the hope of the Japa parents, both illiterate, that their children will get a good education. With your vital donations, Hearts of Gold has sponsored the two oldest boys, Juan Diego and Juan Febrizio, who now attend CETAP after school, though it is a six-mile-long muddy walk for the boys, each way. Three-year-old Junior attends a government preschool. Neither Salvador nor Nelly has a steady job but they have managed to make their loan payments and to build a tiny house on a piece of land given to them because it is too steep to farm. They do not have water–they must haul it in from a neighbor’s house, about a mile away–but they were recently able to obtain electricity.

Nelly in her kitchen.

The Japa’s house, at about 10 feet by 10 feet, is even smaller than their former lodging. It is perched on a postage-stamp of land, dug into a 45-degree slope, about 40 feet down from the road. They have only one electrical outlet.  The walls are made of plastic sheeting, cardboard and scrap wood. The roof is corrugated tin and plastic sheeting.  It contains two beds, a stove, a table and one chair. Imagine being a ten-year-old boy, trying to complete your homework under such conditions?

Juan Febrizio, 6, enjoys a treat in the kitchen.

To make things worse, the local school teacher has inexplicably developed a dislike for the Japa family. She takes it out on Juan Diego, greeting him every morning, saying, “Oh, look!  Here comes the Prince of the Stupids!” and she tells the boy over and over again that he is a failure. Juan Diego has become nervous and depressed, but the Japas can receive free psychological counseling from Dr. Pablo Tapía through CETAP-Lucy, thanks to the generous monthly support of sponsors like you.

When Nelly begged the teacher to stop and told her that Juan Diego’s psychologist said that bullying and name calling is harmful to her child’s self-esteem, the teacher said, “Liar! You can’t afford a psychologist!” Nelly has been reduced to tears time and again by the teacher, who has conversely accused the family of lying about their financial condition, saying, “Your clothes are too nice!” When Nelly explained that they are gifts donated by Gringos, the teacher said, “That’s ridiculous! Why would anybody give you anything?”

Who knows why an adult teacher would express such an attitude? It might have to do with the impression of the family as “outsiders.” Perhaps it’s jealously, or has something to do with the cultural idea that you get what you deserve in life, and if you don’t have anything, you don’t deserve anything? Unfortunately, this is not an unusual circumstance in rural schools.

Several of CETAP-Lucy’s other fragile students have been bullied by teachers, and self-esteem issues are rampant among children raised in poverty. That’s why it is so important to continue supporting these children through powerful sponsorship programs like the one offered through Hearts of Gold.  Your monthly gifts ensure these children can receive the educational and emotional support they need to live a life beyond poverty.

Both Dr. Tapía and I have submitted letters to the teacher, explaining that indeed, Juan Diego is under the care of a psychologist and that those services are provided through the generosity of Gringos. We’ll see if things change. Children like Juan Diego and families like the Japas desperately need professional assistance to help them deal with the obstacles they meet every day. You can sponsor psychological services to children like Juan Diego for only $15 per month, or may sponsor their academic support for only $35 per month. Juan Diego isn’t giving up. His parents aren’t giving up.  But they need your continued support to keep strong.

The steep descent to the Japa’s home.

Please remember Juan Diego’s smiling face and know that the donations you make to Hearts of Gold help make that smile possible!  For more information about sponsoring a disadvantaged child, contact Johanna Vaca at or visit our website to make a gift today.   We CAN make a life-changing difference through the power of giving!

Thanks to your sponsorship dollars, these concerns regarding Juan Diego’s teacher are being addressed with the help of Dr. Pablo Tapía, Rocio Illescas and the school’s personnel.  Stay tuned for an update about Juan Diego and the Japa family coming soon!

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