Meeting Dulce Maria Valiente

Just as I started crying uncontrollably, obviously.
Having been to Guatemala already I thought I was pretty well prepared for the poverty, the lack of basic necessities, the complete absence of medicine and all of the emotions that come along with experiencing that for the first time.  Four years ago it was really, really hard for me to go to the clinic everyday and see these girls, younger than me with four or five kids, no money, no education, no safe place to sleep. I cried a lot, and got mad when we couldnt take them all to the hospital to run tests on them. I couldn't do much to help them, and it tore me up inside. 
Fast forward to last summer when Jon and I were planning our wedding, we knew we wanted to donate to charity in honor of our guests rather than giving away favors. I contacted the group we went to Guatemala with and asked them if they had any ideas for ways we could contribute and they emailed me a picture of a little girl who needed some help with affording school. Just like that we became sponsors to Dulce Maria Valiente of Las Palmares, Guatemala. Our donation gave Dulce her uniforms and shoes, all of her school supplies as well as computer classes and health care.  Most importantly it gave us a connection to this little girl, and to the people of Guatemala that we love so much. 
I cannot even begin to tell you how nervous and excited I was to finally meet her when we went back to Guatemala in March. I wasn't quite sure what to say to her, or what she would think of us. Her mother, who is the same age as me, explained to her that we were her "Padrinos", her godparents, which made me even more nervous. That is a big responsibility, and this probably wasn't the time to be explaining to her that I was an atheist. We gave her the gifts that we had so carefully picked out: a new backpack that could be converted into a messenger bag when she gets older, a set of 100 markers (all we really knew about her was that she liked to draw), a pink glitter-filled jump rope that turned out to be about 3 times too long for her, a notebook with puppies on the front just like the one I had in first grade, and of course toothbrushes for her whole family.
She smiled, and thanked us, and I could tell how excited she was. Her mom asked me how many kids we had, and Jon laughed. It didn't seem appropriate to tell her how we didn't feel financially ready to have kids just yet given that she scrubs laundry in a river and her husband picks melons and they provide as well as they can for their family of 5 on less than $400 a month. 
My sponsor child can swing better than you sponsor child!
I asked Dulce if we could take a picture together, I picked her up and she hugged me so tight and I just melted. Tears started pouring down my face. She probably thinks I am insane. I was just so excited to have met her, and to hopefully give her opportunities that she might not have had without school.
As we left, she jumped up on the monkey bars and swung back and forth and waved and smiled with her big toothless grin that all six year olds have and I was shocked at how incredibly good it made me feel to be in her life. We are very lucky.
For more on how you can sponsor a child in Guatemala or other ways to help, visit HeartsInMotion.Org

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