Maria helping patients at the medical clinic

Nine-year-old Maria lived in the La Playa slum, a community filled with longing and desperation. Located on the outskirts of Barranquilla, Colombia, La Playa was populated by thousands of families displaced by the nation’s many years of armed conflict.

Like most of the other households in La Playa, Maria and her family lived in a small makeshift home with a dirt floor. Outside, children played barefoot in piles of garbage or broken glass. More than 80% of the adults could not find work, and their children often went to bed hungry.

It was a bright and promising day, then, when Maria first walked through the front gate of the Rose of Sharon School to attend her first day of third grade.

Thanks to the generosity of an International Needs partner, Maria was now able to access a high-quality, government-approved education, medical care, a school uniform and shoes, a daily hot meal, and the nurture of loving Christian mentors.

Maria settled in with ease. She made friends and quickly began to shine as a model student. From that first day until her graduation in 2012, Marie stood out as a strong leader and a cheerful, loyal friend.

After graduation, Maria went on to study nursing at a technical institute in Barranquilla. To nobody’s surprise, she is now thriving as one of the top students in her nursing class.

Recently, Maria had the opportunity to give back to the school community that had embraced her as a child.

In February 2015, an International Needs medical team from the United States sponsored a week-long medical clinic in La Playa, providing essential medical care to the poorest of the poor. Maria joined the team and donated her nursing skills to the triage area, helping to care for more than 400 patients.

The nine-year-old Maria who first walked through the Rose of Sharon School’s front gate could never have imagined this outcome.

Filled with the joy of giving back, Maria gives thanks every day for the International Needs partner who invested in her promise and potential so many years ago, saving her from an almost certain life of poverty and hopelessness.

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