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CFCA stories

Sponsored 63-year-old learns to read, write

August 12, 2011

Buenaventura, CFCA sponsored aging in the Dominican Republic
Buenaventura, 63, learned to read and write through her CFCA
sponsorship in the Dominican Republic.

We often hear that through education, we can accomplish anything we want. For many, this is true, but for those born in extreme poverty, education is a luxury they often can't afford.

Buenaventura, 63, is a CFCA sponsored elderly woman in the Dominican Republic. She grew up among 19 siblings. Her father, a shoemaker, and her mother, a dressmaker, did not earn enough to meet all of the family's needs, including Buenaventura's schooling.

When Buenaventura turned 8, instead of going to school, her parents sent her to work as a maid for a wealthy family. This was a good way for her to have three meals a day, a more comfortable bed and earn a little money to help her siblings.

Illuminating life with adult literacy

Since 2009, four sponsored aging members have learned
to read and write through adult literacy workshops
offered by Centro Familiar, an educational support program
through CFCA's project in the Dominican Republic. Parents
of sponsored children also participate in literacy workshops.

Adult literacy classes take place in local CFCA offices or in
the homes of families served by CFCA in the Dominican
Republic. Classes are taught by CFCA scholarship students,
local schoolteachers and mothers of sponsored children. It
can take two years for an elderly person to complete the
program, but the process is conducted with love and patience,
said Altagracia Flores, a member of CFCA's Dominican
Republic staff.

At the end of the program, the elderly students participate in a
recognition ceremony and receive a certificate acknowledging
their accomplishment. One of the first things they are eager to
read for themselves is a letter from their sponsor.

Buenaventura has worked as a dressmaker, street vendor and office cleaner, but she never learned to read and write.

"Not knowing to write and read is hard," Buenaventura said. "It's like going blind through life. You don't know what signs in the street say or what documents are about. Anybody can hurt you."

Buenaventura became sponsored five years ago when CFCA social workers visited her community in Santo Domingo. Sponsorship was the beginning of a new life of hope and dignity for her.

"In CFCA, I found family. We are a community," she said. "We talk. We laugh. We play. We learn. I simply love it."

Sponsorship provides Buenaventura with food, clothing and medicine. But the most precious gift she has received, thanks to the generosity of her sponsor, is the chance to learn to read and write.

Two years ago, the local CFCA program started offering literacy classes to sponsored elderly.

"I immediately accepted this opportunity because I wanted to learn," Buenaventura said. "I wanted to write to my sponsor. I wanted to know what books said. Two years and lots of effort later, I graduated. This was very special for me. All my family came to my graduation. I cried."

Giving back

Buenaventura, CFCA sponsored aging in the Dominican Republic
Buenaventura stands by a picture of her
graduation from a CFCA literacy workshop.

Living in one of the most dangerous areas in Santo Domingo, Buenaventura sees how young girls in her community are exposed to drugs and prostitution. She knows what it's like to grow up in poverty with no opportunities and decided to do something about it.

"I told myself, 'By the grace of God, I learned to write and read and by his grace, I am going to use it and give back to others,'" she said. "I started to study pastoral psychology and theology as well as Bible teaching."

More than 40 girls from the neighborhood study with Buenaventura at her home.

"I teach them about God, values and the Bible," Buenaventura said. "I want to keep them away from all the negativity surrounding them."

After reaching her personal goals, Buenaventura can give back as much as she has received.

"Finding someone like my sponsor, who wants to help me, has been wonderful, but teaching others has been the best thing for me," Buenaventura said. "I thought I was too old to learn and teach, but one is never too old. I received this in CFCA where I really found happiness."

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