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A simple gift propels a lifelong dream

SPONSORED — With holiday shopping in full swing, it’s easy to become preoccupied with finding the perfect gift. But for 15-year-old Carmen, the greatest gift of all could never be wrapped up nicely and placed beneath a tree.

Despite her innate talent, there was one glaring hurdle in the way of Carmen’s dream to pursue competitive gymnastics: money. Her family was poor, even by Peruvian standards, and she knew she couldn’t compete without substantial financial support. From coaching to facilities to travel, gymnastics is an expensive sport, and her family struggled simply to put food on the table.

When the situation seemed hopeless, as a child in Compassion’s child sponsorship program, Carmen was given a priceless gift: the opportunity to train with other local gymnasts.

“The teacher said it was only for skilled girls,” said Carmen’s mother. “And Carmen started to jump and show her skills. The teacher was very impressed, but I didn’t have the money to enroll her in that club; however, she was granted a full scholarship because she was really good.”

Just 10 years old at the time, Carmen poured her heart into her training, gaining competitive experience as she traveled throughout Peru. During a competition, a trainer who witnessed Carmen’s talent and passion opened another door to her dream; she invited Carmen to train with the Peruvian Gymnastics Federation – free.

The recipient of so much generosity already, Carmen faced a devastating problem: Her family couldn’t afford transportation to and from the gym. That’s when Compassion International stepped in. The organization, which connects caring sponsors with impoverished children throughout the world, provided Carmen’s transportation and even made sure she received a healthy meal each day.

“When Carmen joined the Compassion program, she had malnutrition and was very shy,” said her Compassion International tutor. “However, she was always showing what she can do with her legs and pirouettes. I was terrified to see a little girl so flexible and without pain.”

The sponsorship program didn’t just help Carmen. It changed her life. Through her training with the Peruvian Gymnastics Federation, Carmen was able to compete in the National Championship of Rhythmic Gymnastics.

And she won.

With gold medals in five categories, Carmen became the national junior champion.

“God has done so much in my life,” Carmen said. “He is helping me to overcome my fears and shyness, and I am better every day. I am who I am thanks to him.”

Who she is is a champion, and she’s only beginning. Carmen is now one of only four gifted gymnasts who were chosen to receive special training, and she’s been selected to participate in the 2019 Pan American Games which, by winning, will qualify her to compete in the 2020 Tokyo games.

Propelled by faith, Carmen’s life trajectory shifted thanks to the generous gift of a loving sponsor. Through its child sponsorship program, Compassion International provides life-changing opportunities for impoverished children, including education, medical care, nourishing food, mentoring and, most importantly, the gift of Christian teaching. For about $1 per day, sponsors give the ultimate gift: a lifeline to children who desperately need it.

To find out more about giving the perfect gift this holiday season, or sponsor a child visit Compassion International.

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