Beating the Odds With the Help of Vittana
—Marlene is one of the Vittana students I interviewed this summer. After completing a degree in education, she found a teaching position that allows her to provide a better future for her children.
How would you feel if you lost your mother during your first semester of college? Then how would you feel if, after your mother’s death, your father abandoned you and your siblings? Add to that a generous uncle who, crippled by disease, lost his health and income shortly after taking you in. Situations like these drive young people to lives of vice—or at least of resignation. Which is why the response of one young woman was so surprising.
Esperanza is a Vittana student who lived through these daunting circumstances.* Inspired by her mother who felt that “education is the greatest inheritance I can leave for my children,” Esperanza always planned to complete university studies. “It’s the greatest treasure […] without education we would be nothing, really” said Esperanza.
Just before she began a degree in nursing, her mother was diagnosed with cancer. By the end of the semester the disease had claimed her life. Esperanza had to drop out of school while her family adjusted to the loss. Apparently unable to adjust, her father abandoned Esperanza and her two siblings. An uncle stepped in to support Esperanza and pay for her education.
Within months, however, the uncle had to leave his family for a hospital hundreds of miles away. He had a life-threatening bone disease that left him unable to work. Esperanza was forced to drop out of school. Again.
Determined to honor her mother and complete her education, she found a job and started looking for a way back to school. After a couple years of saving and searching she found a kinesiology program that offered evening classes. She could keep her job, and with the help of a Vittana loan, she would be able to finish her degree!
When I asked her what she planned to do with her education, she said she wanted to pursue physical therapy. Because Paraguay’s public healthcare system doesn’t provide physical therapy, only the wealthy can afford such care; the majority of patients never recover their mobility. I want to “rehabilitate them, to return them to their surroundings… So that they don’t feel discriminated against, or that they don’t have any value anymore, you know?” said Esperanza.
When I think of what Esperanza has overcome, I struggle to relate. How can I possibly empathize with someone who has faced so much so early in life? But when I think of her desire to salir adelante or move ahead, I see how much we have in common. She wants to contribute to society, just like me. She needs education and training to achieve that goal, just like me. And now, thanks to Vittana, she has access to financial resources to make that possible, just like me and other students in the U.S.
As I complete my fellowship with Vittana, I’m grateful for the increased understanding and empathy I’ve gained. It has strengthened my commitment to this field and tempered my enthusiasm with patience and a bit of wisdom. I’m grateful for the Show Me Campaign and the voice it gives to important issues in education and development. And I’m grateful to you, the reader, for participating in my adventure this summer. I hope you’re inspired to take action and help a student today!
*Name changed to protect privacy