Lucy Lainfiesta, regional program manger-South America, was born in Guatemala. A lifelong humanitarian, Lainfiesta first started her work with the United Nation’s Pan-American Health Organization. Six months into her placement, she met a Christian Children’s Fund board member and began work with the organization.
Twenty-four years later, Lainfiesta reflects on lessons learned and a life devoted to humanitarian causes.
I was in Guatemala during the time of the war in the eighties. It was a very hard time. We were supporting children in all kinds of dangerous situations. The government did not have social services at the community level.
From 1981 to 1996, the year during which a peace agreement was signed, it was extremely difficult, but the CCF office was still operating and the staff was dedicated to the communities. We learned many things from the people — about resilience, about how people can survive in such difficult circumstances.
In Guatemala, they took many men for civil patrols. The men were forced to comply.
One day, this man was taken from his home. His wife, pregnant at the time, and their eight children were left alone, waiting for his return.
They waited two days and then three. He did not come back.
His wife walked to the military base to find her husband. Nothing. After five more days, her husband still had not returned. Then, one day, she decided to take a short road in the mountains. While walking, she witnessed the soldiers committing violent acts. She was too scared to go any further and hid with her children in the mountains for a year and a half. After this time, she came back because one of her children was dying of starvation.
She came to the CCF program office.
When we met her, she was telling her story, trembling, and I thought: “If this woman can survive all of this, we can survive anything.”
It was a powerful thought.
The Ways in Which Many Children Experience Poverty
From my professional experience, I’ve come to realize children experience poverty in such different ways. They feel discriminated against, excluded from everything.
Ask the children about poverty and their answers are related to human relationships.There is not a single child who says that poverty is due to the fact they don’t have money. Not a single one.
So this shows us that it is very important to treat all children fairly with equity. We must take into account personal relationships and human interaction, not only physical comforts.
And children who live in poverty — like other children — need a voice.
Children don’t have any representation. They can’t say anything to the mayor in the community. Children need to be empowered. They need to be encouraged to participate and give their own ideas.
CCF understands this and works to let children be heard.
Poverty is complex. For an organization like CCF, there are times when we will need to provide things in the emergency stages and at the same time, we must help them improve their abilities, as families, as communities to reconstruct themselves, to address all of these factors which make them vulnerable to poverty.
Sponsor and Friend
It’s my hope that each child who needs it has a sponsor. Each child cherishes the care, love and attention of his or her sponsor. They keep their sponsor’s letters safe inside their clothing or tuck the letters below the pillow.
The sponsor is very important.
This is what a sponsor should know — that the sponsor-child relationship is precious.