September Visit with Yuliana
My first visit in Cartagena was with Yuliana, who is a newer sponsorship for us. We started sponsoring her in February of this year, so this was my first time meeting her. She lives in a town outside of Cartagena. We found out she was pregnant not long after we started sponsoring her, and she now has a two month-old baby boy.
Our visit started at her community center, which is one I hadn’t visited before. Yuliana has an older brother named Leiner, which I didn’t know until my visit, who has graduated from CI and apparently had a very involved sponsor who was tremendously helpful to him and the family. Leiner has a barbershop, which his sponsor helped provide supplies for, and the CI staff knows the family very well because of all of the support provided by her brother’s sponsor. Because of that, Carolay said they were very happy to see that we had sponsored Yuliana and to know that she was also getting an involved, committed sponsor.
We started with the gift bags. Yuliana’s mother was very emotional when she opened the framed photo collage. She said that she doesn’t have as many childhood pictures of Yuliana as I was able to access through CI. Not every family reacts that strongly to that particular gift, but for the ones who do, there are no words for how happy I am to be able to provide that for them. Yuliana was very happy with her art supplies and the baby clothes. I think the thing that touched me the most, though, was her reaction to a small stuffed cat that I brought. It’s a very simple little stuffed animal, really (albeit extremely soft), but she looked at it for a minute and then said that it’s the baby’s first toy.
After gifts, we walked around the center. During the tour, I learned that Yuliana has been very involved in practically every program offered by her community center. I’m happy to hear that she has taken such full advantage of the opportunities CI makes available to her, and hope that she will continue to do so as much as she can going forward. She said that recently it has been difficult for her to go to the center very often with the baby, but she hopes she will be able to go again more as the baby gets older.
After we had visited the community center, we got in the truck and headed to a nearby shopping center. On the way there, the subject of Yuliana’s current living arrangements came up. She explained that she is living with the baby’s father and his family. However, things are difficult there because the baby’s father (who is several years older than Yuliana) doesn’t work, and neither does his mother. When Carolay asked why she’s living there in that case, she said “because I’m waiting for him to become more mature and take responsibility”. Yuliana’s mother said at that point that she keeps telling Yuliana that she can always move back home if and when she decides that things aren’t working with the baby’s father, and Yuliana’s mother and brother will be there to help her in any way they can.
When we got to the shopping center, we started with groceries and general necessities. Yuliana was able to get basic supplies for the baby as well as some food. It came out after we left the store that the two diapers she had brought with her on our outing were the last two she had left, and she hadn’t known what she was going to do after that. Afterwards, we moved on to clothes shopping. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of instances where she’s wearing the same clothes from one year to the next in her CI photos, so I specifically suggested clothes shopping, and we got her a lot of new outfits.
After shopping, we headed to the food court for lunch. Yuliana had never been to a food court before – I think it was my first time initiating a food court newbie! In the end, she opted for pizza. We chatted a little about school while we ate. She is already back in school, attending on Saturdays. She said she’s doing well and is scheduled to graduate in January. After high school, she would like to study to become a biology teacher. I’m so proud of her for getting right back into school so soon after having her baby, without missing a beat. She told me months ago that she wanted to set a good example for her little boy, and I think she’s on the right track.
After lunch, we left to take Yuliana and her mom back to where Yuliana is currently living with the baby’s father’s family. I have to be honest – this part was a little strange. I have no idea whether I met the baby’s father. There was a boy. He seemed to be around the right age. He held the baby. But he never said a word. He was never introduced. There was absolutely no interaction between him and Yuliana. I did meet the baby’s other grandmother, who was very welcoming when we arrived at her home. We unloaded all of the groceries and took a few pictures, and then it was time to say our goodbyes.
I had such a wonderful time visiting with Yuliana, and I’m so glad that I had the opportunity to meet her and her mom. Carolay and I both ended the day feeling a bit concerned about Yuliana and her current situation, though. Fortunately, Carolay said that there are a few staff members who know Yuliana well, and that she will also ask some people to try to check in on her a little more often and offer her some extra support. It’s good to know that CI will be looking out for her extra. And in the meanwhile, I will be putting in some overtime writing her letters and trying to squeeze out some extra EG money to make sure she has the essentials she needs. And looking forward to the next opportunity to visit, of course!