Growing up fast in Guatemala

Mention the phrase “teenage boys,” and the first synonym to pop up in many people’s minds is “trouble.” They think of irresponsible youths playing computer games when they should be studying for a test, or doing donuts in the school parking lot to impress a pretty girl. But a Guatemalan boy named Jeremiah – one of our sponsored students in the Potter’s House after-school program – defies the stereotype.

Jeremiah, 13, participates in the Potter’s House after-school program.
Jeremiah, 13, participates in the Potter’s House after-school program.

When you look at Jeremiah, you forget he’s just 13 years old. His somber eyes, weighed down with the pain and responsibilities of a man twice his age, offer an uncomfortable glimpse into a very different world where kids have to grow up fast so they can play the role of parents in their broken, impoverished families.

Jeremiah is the oldest of seven siblings and the de facto man-of-the-house since his father moved out a year ago. He has been a great help to his mother Ana, who earns a small income by scavenging for recyclables at the Guatemala City garbage dump. The family of eight (the youngest of whom are twin 4-year-olds with a severe hearing impairment) all share two small beds in a cement-block home that, if not up to modern standards, is at least a step above the crude shanties many local families live in.

Ana fought back tears as she told us how Jeremiah has taken on many responsibilities at home. “When I’m sick in bed, he brings me tea and cleans the clothes and the floor,” she said. “I am happy to have such good children.”

Jeremiah with his family.
Jeremiah with his family.

Jeremiah loves going to school, but he used to struggle with his grades because he had no one to help him with his homework. His uneducated mother could not offer any assistance when he needed to find the right answer to a question. But now that he is going to Potter’s House – which provides him with tutoring, school supplies, food, and even computer training – his education has taken a turn in the right direction. He tells us his favorite subject at school is science, and that he wants to become a lawyer when he grows up so he can help the many hurting people he sees in his community.

Cross International is proud to sponsor young teens like Jeremiah, who are making the most of their opportunities to overcome poverty and achieve a better future.

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