Two Very Different Paths
The girls took two very different paths.
Years ago, during a visit to a rural village in Belize, MVI missionary Elizabeth Ayala noticed two 15-year-old girls, Carmen and María, (not their real names), sitting under a tree. She approached them to chat and learn more about them, intrigued that they were not in school. They told her their families couldn’t afford to pay for the school fees, uniforms, books and all related expenses. In Belize, primary school is free and mandatory, but high school is not. As they continued to talk, Carmen expressed her interest in continuing school if there could be a way for her go.
By the grace of God, the following year, with the support of a generous sponsor, Carmen finished her freshman year. Maria, on the other hand, like most girls her age in their community, was pregnant.
Carmen was the oldest in her class, but thanks to the continuous support and prodding from friends, teachers and the school principal, she became the first person in her family to graduate from high school, and the first girl in her community. To reach school on time every morning, Carmen had to be ready for the 6 a.m. bus that took her into town and brought her back at 6 p.m. It was a completely new social and educational environment for her, with new relationships and different systems than what she had been used to, but she learned to navigate the urban context and completed her secondary education. It was not an easy journey for Carmen, but certainly not as challenging as for Maria.
By the time Carmen graduated, Maria was a single teenage mother of a three-year-old daughter with a second baby on the way, not unusual in many rural areas.
A few years later, at 24, Carmen married a young leader from her church. They are now both leading and teaching in their church and their community, working on their home and planning their family. Today, she is an assistant manager in a prestigious company where she continues to learn and to acquire new abilities, skills, experience and knowledge for a promising future.
“Around the world,” says Elizabeth, “it is a well-documented fact that an educated woman is an empowered person who will make a significant difference in her personal life, in the well-being of her family and the life of her community and country. Making education a priority results in multiple benefits in the short- and long-term for herself, for a healthier and stronger family, for society at large and for the improvement of the quality of life of her surroundings.”
In the last 10 years, the local scholarship committee has helped over 125 students, mostly girls, graduate from high school. The Ayalas have also helped support the high school education of several pastors’ children and others in need.