Today, Maisy, Kate and I met a 13-year-old girl who has worked at eight different jobs since the third grade, when her father, a farmer, learned he had cancer in his leg and subsequently had it cut off below the knee. She lived through the uncertainty of her father’s illness, was hit by a bus while walking home from school, and knew the money wasn’t there, but she still fought to continue her education.
That chispa in Ana Julujuj isn’t evident at first sight, but it comes out the moment she starts speaking. She has poise and confidence; her eyes tell you that she knows the world but isn’t afraid of it. She’s the kind of girl who will switch primary schools when she learns of another with better teachers and classes. When her father told her the family couldn’t afford to send her to school after the sixth grade, Ana began searching for solutions. She met a woman in the market who told her about a program in Panajachel that sponsored girls’ education, so she spent all of her own money to reach the lakeside town and find Starfish One by One. After all she’s been through, she still has a spark driving her to do well, to push harder, and to keep showing up for school each day. Ana has the spirit of She’s the First — so we decided to sponsor her!
Her resume is longer than ours: She has fed chickens and pigs, cleaned houses and shops,
made tortillas and watched over children. But soon she will attending a full day of school, instead of the half day that allowed her to work part time. Her parents realize that they’ll lose income because of it, but they say they’re willing to make the sacrifice and will work more odd jobs to make ends meet. They are happy to give her the freedom to study, they say, because they are happy she has the initiative to finish her education. Next Monday, she’ll be the first in her family to start the 7th grade.
“The truth is I love to study,” she says [translated]. “Since my dad went to the hospital, I didn’t have much support for school, but I’ve always managed to get through. To study is my dream…I don’t know what I’m going to be yet, but I’m going to do it.”