The Chance to Heal

A U.S. family sees how their support promoted peace in their sponsored child’s household.

After enduring several years of abuse, Eridania Perez finally left her husband.

She didn’t know how she would raise three children alone, but she knew they had to leave if they were going to survive.

Eridania’s life was never easy. Her mother died when she was 8, and her father wasn’t around much. Eridania got pregnant with her daughter, Erica, at age 15 and married the child’s father. The marriage didn’t last. She remarried and had two sons, Alexander and Angel, with her new husband. But he began beating Eridania in front of the children. Alexander begged her to leave him, and she finally gathered the courage to flee with her children.

The domestic violence that Eridania’s children witnessed had repercussions. Ten-year-old Alexander was aggressive toward other children, sometimes getting into fights at school. But it wasn’t only Alexander. Carmen Rosa, Alexander’s Compassion tutor, and Roberto Peña, pastor of the church that runs Alexander’s Compassion program, witnessed widespread hostility and violence in the community. So they made it a priority to change that culture.

Pastor Roberto holds a master’s degree in psychopedagogy — a mix of psychology and pedagogy, the discipline of teaching. He created an anti-violence program and began counseling sessions with sponsored children and parents, including Alexander and Eridania.

“We took about six months trying to help them change their attitudes,” Roberto says. It worked. “There is a complete change in the classroom. … they can understand violence and the damage it can produce in them and among them.”

Carmen says she’s seen a transformation in Alexander as a result of the program. Eridania agrees, explaining that her entire family has adopted healthy ways of dealing with emotions instead of shouting and fighting. Having peace in the household has eased stress for Eridania, who works hard just to feed her children.

Alexander does classwork at his school.

FAMILY TIES
Eridania is a grocery store cleaner. Her monthly salary of 3,500 pesos, about $75, isn’t enough to cover her rent of 4,000 pesos — not to mention other expenses. If she can find side work as a housecleaner, she can cook dinners like fried plantains with spaghetti. But more than once she’s had to ask a neighbor for a piece of bread to split among her children.

Eridania’s load grew a little lighter five years ago when the Koldenhovens, a family in Colorado, sponsored Alexander. Ian Koldenhoven, 10, shares a birthday with Alexander and writes to him regularly.

Registering Alexander in Compassion’s program hasn’t solved all of Eridania’s problems. But in addition to living in a more peaceful household, she no longer worries about Alexander’s school fees. The meals he eats at his Compassion center ensure he won’t go to bed hungry. And Compassion pays for a tonsil medicine he needs, which costs 300 pesos a month.

The Koldenhovens deepened their relationship with Alexander’s family this year when they flew to the Dominican Republic. Amanda and Chad Koldenhoven wanted to meet their sponsored child and also give Ian and his sister, Tava, a “jump-start” to a broader worldview.

"
I’ve never made a friend that fast. "   
Alexander hugs Ian Koldenhoven as Ian’s parents and sister watch. The 10-year-old boys have built a special connection over the five years the Koldenhovens have sponsored Alexander.

“They’re young enough that they’re not set in their ways,” Amanda says. “They’re still deciding what their view of the world is, how the world operates.”

Since Tava was only 6, her parents wondered how she would handle a trek overseas. “I was hesitant because it’s a tremendous amount of work, but it was so worth it,” says Chad.

A large part of what made the trip worthwhile to Chad was watching his son’s immediate friendship with Alexander. The boys hugged. Alexander invited Ian to play baseball with the only equipment he has, a board and a plastic bottle filled with rocks.

Meeting their sponsored child’s family and visiting the Compassion center where he learns and plays gave the Koldenhovens a deeper understanding and appreciation of Compassion’s program. “Sponsorship isn’t making life a little nicer,” Amanda says. “It’s pushing them off the knife edge of survival. There are no safety nets in Compassion countries.”

Alexander and Ian spent a day playing baseball, climbing trees, swinging at Alexander’s Compassion center, and going out for ice cream and dinner. Ian’s family from the U.S. learned more about Alexander’s family on the visit.

The Koldenhovens also saw how much their family means to Alexander’s. During a visit to their home, Eridania pulled out a photo the Koldenhovens sent years ago. “Seeing our worn family picture made me cry,” Amanda says. “It was a treasured possession. They feel about my family the way we do about theirs. They are family.”

The Koldenhovens visit Alexander's family and home in the Dominican Republic.

The Koldenhovens didn’t know the history of domestic violence in Alexander’s family until they visited. “Without Compassion he just would have fallen off the grid in his own community,” Amanda says. “He wouldn’t get counseling groups. He wouldn’t be able to identify his own need. He just would have been a child causing problems.”

Chad says he could tell just by looking at children in the community which ones belonged to Compassion’s program.

“Compassion sponsorship works,” Amanda adds. “We can see the difference. These kids have bright eyes and dreams. They still live in poverty but know their future is brighter both here and in eternity. They aren’t trapped forever.”

Watch Now
Here's a video narrated by Ian for your family to enjoy!  Follow a day in the life of Ian, a 10-year-old who lives in the U.S., and the boy his family sponsors in the Dominican Republic, Alexander.
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The Chance to Heal

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