We are stunned to read this news in a text from our contact.
Isabella is our Nicaraguan ‘daughter’.
Years ago, on one of our trips to Nicaragua, we met Isabella. The child of a rape, she lived in poverty with her family. Her mother --- because of the rape --- had difficulty accepting and connecting with Isabella. Despite the rejection, the girl lived at home, developing a close bond with her aging grandmother, her Abuela. Abuela sold handmade souvenirs to tourists to augment the family’s meagre income.
Nicaraguan girls in poverty face a dismal future. Teen pregnancy in Nicaragua is the result of a machismo culture and a lack of education, including sex education. When girls become pregnant, boyfriends disappear.
According to a report called "Stolen Lives" by Planned Parenthood Global, the rate of 10- to 14-year-old girls having babies in Nicaragua has increased…one in three teenagers gives birth to a child before she turns 18.
Nicaragua is the poorest country in Central America, the second poorest in the Western Hemisphere, and has widespread underemployment and poverty.
Our Managua teaching pastor --- approached by Abuela for help --- asked whether we would be interested in meeting Isabella.
Isabella’s home, a concrete casa, sits on an unpaved road in a satellite town outside of Managua. It is small with little furniture; cement floors and a tiny, ill-equipped kitchen are in sight as we enter a side opening. There is no door.
First, we meet Abuela: a wise old woman suffering from chronic health issues.
Yet her priority is Isabella. She seeks a sponsor for her granddaughter. Someone to help with school expenses. She wants her 10-year-old granddaughter to have a future. She knows the only way is through education.
We are introduced to a shy and pretty 10-year-old with a ready smile and dark, flashing eyes. Shoulder length, chestnut coloured hair frames her open face. She proudly shows us her Abuela’s handicrafts and presses a ceramic rooster in my hand.
Since 2013, we have supported Isabella in her quest for higher education. She has willingly signed a contract drawn up by our Nica pastor contact; she must attain good grades and maintain high standards of conduct to qualify for continued support.
Occasionally, as she grows older and her needs increase, we contribute spending money for a two-wheel bike (later stolen), a second-hand cell phone, a small monetary reward for graduation from Grade 8 with honours. (She is elated…as are we!)
In return, Isabella and her Abuela write us separate, regular (translated) letters about her progress in school. We respond in kind. Whenever possible we return to Nicaragua and visit Isabella and her Abuela. Isabella is learning English because she understands its importance in the ‘outside’ world.
Sometimes when we receive her letters, she expresses frustration or fear: an illness, lack of confidence. Eventually she confides she does not want to get pregnant like so many of her classmates. She wants a career. Independence. A future.
To keep her dream alive --- it is so easy to stray --- we write back to ignite encouragement, citing examples of successful women who came from humble beginnings. Like Michelle Obama.
Thanks to Abuela and our Nica teaching contact, we receive real-time videos and photos of Isabella, wearing a white graduation gown, receiving her Honours diploma from High School last year. At 17, she is radiant, proud, a young woman on the edge of success, escaping her past. We are elated!
Sensing a wonderful future for Isabella, we promise to continue our financial support as she continues her education and enters Nursing.
Excited, we text her: when you graduate as a nurse, we will be honoured to attend the ceremony and watch you receive your diploma as you walk across the stage.
We can hardly wait.
It took Abuela a week to write a heart-broken note to our contact who texted us immediately:
I have just received word from her grandmother that Isabella has run away with a 19-year-old boy.
Abuela suspects her mother’s rejection was only one of a number of issues that sent Isabella into an unknown future. We are very disturbed, heartbroken. Deeply concerned.
If Isabella returns, Abuela knows our offer of financial support still stands, as long as our Nica daughter wishes to further her education. It’s a promise we will honour.
Unfortunately, to date there is no news.