Nayeli is 10 years old and lives next to the biggest landfill in Guatemala City. Her home is made of old tin sheets and scraps from construction materials. Nayeli lives with her mom, Mirian, her father, Calixto, her older sister Melani, and her younger brother Samuel.
Many children who attend Compassion student center Centro Estudiantil La Verdad in Guatemala City live next to massive piles of rotting garbage like this one.
Calixto works driving a truck that collects garbage, and earns just enough to cover the family’s basic needs. Mirian works washing neighbors’ clothes to buy food for the family, but some days there is not enough work.
Nayeli’s parents don’t always have enough money for food. In fact, nearly half of the children in Guatemala under age 5 are chronically malnourished, one of the highest rates in the world. But Nayeli has a safeguard. As a sponsored child, she can bring empty plastic containers to her Compassion-assisted student center and have them filled with food.
When Nayeli was 3, Mirian enrolled her at the Compassion center, Centro Estudiantil La Verdad (The Truth Student Center). “I knew she was going to receive benefits there, and it was a safe place where she could learn good things,” says Mirian.
After enrolling her, Mirian found out her Compassion center also partners with a private school for children who live near the landfill. The school was built through an alliance with a U.S. church. Mirian wanted the best education for her daughter, and so she enrolled her in the private school, Rayos de Esperanza (Rays of Hope).
“What I liked the most about it was the fact that they care about the children and they teach them about God, too,” Mirian says of the school. “The community where we live has drugs, prostitution, alcoholism and gangs. The streets are very dangerous, but the school and student center are the safest places for her.”
In Guatemala, 59 percent of the people live below the poverty line, and it is a major transit country for cocaine and heroin. The drug trade has led to a high crime rate, creating a perilous environment for children who have no safe havens such as Compassion centers.
Nayeli, now in fifth grade, is thriving at Rayos de Esperanza. “I really love going to school,” she says. “My favorite part is when my teacher practices reading with us using Bible verses.”