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My Friend Blanca

I was 13 years old when I couldn’t bear the weight of sadness anymore. Long before this age, I was very aware of the starving and less fortunate children who scattered the world and it sank my heart knowing I was carelessly living a happy privileged life. I could not stand to think that I would need to wait five more years to graduate high school and only then be able to help the world’s children.

It made me sick to keep living like that. Fortunately my mom, who is understanding and just as empathetic as me, understood my heartache and let me sponsor a child.

The girl was Blanca and she was 3 years old and shared my father’s birthday. I sent her letters, pictures and stickers, always promising to one day visit her. I watched as she grew, and the letters switched over from her brother’s great cursive to a small 6-year-old’s handwriting.

Upon graduating college, I decided randomly one evening that I would go to Ecuador. I couldn’t put it off anymore; a promise is a promise and it had been 10 years. My mom and best friend would accompany me for the trip.

We arrived in Quito June 2009, and the very next day we went to the ChildFund office, where they took us to Blanca.

She lived an hour and a half away from the capital city, Quito. We arrived at the community center around 11 a.m., and we went upstairs where I saw her sitting beside her mother who was holding a newborn grandchild. She was exactly how I had thought she would be. We hugged and then we all sat in a circle and talked.

Our translator told Blanca’s mother that my mother wanted to buy her a gas stove (she cooked on charcoal every night!). They were extremely thankful.

Then my mom, best friend, Blanca, and her mother and grandchild, the translator, our driver, another young man who worked there and the community leader all drove to a nearby town called Latacunga to get the gas stove. We got to pick it out for them while our translator negotiated prices.

While we waited for the payments and negotiations, I bought us all fresh bananas from a street vendor, and Blanca and her mother each had two. Using my broken Spanish I asked about a certain type of pea that I loved. Then Blanca’s mother took my hand and led me into the open market. She was quick, leading me through the maze of vendors bartering and looking for the best peas that were still inside the pod.

She found them and bought me an enormous bag!

When we returned to the community center, we ate a typical Ecuadorian lunch, then had to say our good-byes. I painted Blanca’s nails, and we gave her a birthday present and other goods and candy we had brought from America. Then we hugged. And as I walked back to the car I didn’t want it to end, I wanted to stay there longer. And I wanted just one more hug.

As I turned back, I saw Blanca standing there watching me, her mother gave her a small shove and we quickly walked back for another hug. We were both smiling and so happy. It was a feeling I can never describe. It has been a 10-year friendship only through written words, and now seeing her in person and real was the best!

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