by Nicole Duciaume
ChildFund Regional Sponsorship Coordinator
Americas Regional Office
Lilia, the director of Corazon de los Ninos, explains that they first applied to become a social organization 1989. ChildFund became their first partner in 1990, and sponsorship began with just 50 children, as a test.
As the years passed, the number of enrolled children grew. Today, more than 2,000 children are enrolled and participate in ChildFund programs, which also provide services to siblings, family members and others from the community.
When I asked the secret to this project’s success, Lilia mentioned that the growth was due to the increased community participation, pride and ownership of the programs. With this empowerment came the ability to look for other funding sources, resources and partners. The community had to discern the value and identify resources they had access to in order to determine which ones they still needed to create or find. By doing their homework, they could then look for partners to help support them in diversified ways.
Lilia says that the greatest resource is the attitude of the people in the community. It is their collective desire to better their lives and the lives of their children as well as their willingness to volunteer their time, resources and abilities that have allowed Corazon de los Ninos to expand services, even in difficult economic times.
Lilia puts it simply: “Their attitude is—from those who have, to those who need.” She explains that everyone has something to offer, and together the community can build great things.
In addition to the support from ChildFund and its sponsors over the years, Corazon de los Ninos also has received funding and support from several other local and international NGOs as well as local embassies, foundations, individuals and businesses.
One partner is helping enrolled families improve or rebuild homes. Instead of relying on traditional homes made of cardboard and sugarcane, several families have entered a program that teaches participants about the importance of good construction and investing in repairs. The families pay a minimum monthly fee to participate and that fee is their contribution to the purchase of a home with solid walls, iron doors and protected windows.
Lilia also explains that when a meeting space is needed in a community, it is often the families who have participated in the construction program that volunteer their homes for the good of the community.
What started as a small organization in the shadow of Antigua’s volcanoes and tourist trade has grown into a dynamic organization able to diversify funding, negotiate partnerships, expand programs and reach more children and families.
The eager and willing community of Corazon de los Ninos was able to leverage the resources, skills and technical expertise offered by ChildFund, and then partner with other organizations and also negotiate with the local government for services.
There is still much to do, but Lilia explains, with a tear glistening in her eye, that she is happy “because the people are happy.” This is arguably one of the best measurements of success and a testament to the power of sponsorship through ChildFund.
The story doesn’t end here. Corazon de los Ninos will continue to grow, meet the needs of the children, youth and families and be a powerful voice for change in the community and beyond. Eventually, ChildFund will develop a transition plan to leave this small community—not because we don’t want to partner with them anymore, but because they won’t need us anymore.
We will reduce our responsibility and presence so that they can increase theirs.
This is the power of community development, and it all began with the support of 50 sponsors 20 years ago.