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How to Live When You Don’t Exist

When Pamela gave birth, she couldn’t afford the fee to register her babies as citizens. Years later, that trap still held her children tight.

identity in Ecuador

Life isn’t easy when you don’t exist. Six-year-old Maria may run, play, skip and laugh like other girls her age. But without a birth certificate, she’s no-one. Without an identity card, she can’t go to school or get healthcare when she needs it. It’s like she’s never been born.

Registering the birth of your child may not seem like a luxury. But parents in poverty in Ecuador can’t always afford the $65 fee. Records from 2015 state that 15% of the country’s children were unregistered at that time.

No papers, no school

“I was desperate,” says Maria’s mother, Pamela. “My children had not eaten in more than a day, so I took them to the church. While I talked to the director about registering them in the church’s sponsorship programme, they were taken into the dining room, where they were given food to eat. They ate as if they were starving.”

Pamela was struggling to feed Maria and her four siblings on the meagre wage she earned from sporadic construction jobs. Her children were unregistered, so they had no legal rights. Unable to go to school, Maria and her siblings would play in the streets all day or join their parents on the building site. They weren’t safe, let alone developing as they should.

children in Ecuador

The trouble was that, without the correct legal documents, the church’s Compassion project couldn’t accept the children onto their programme either. But Catalina Rodas, the project director, couldn’t turn the children away.

“I had to do something”

“I could not let those children grow up without food or education,” she says. “I had to do something. As a church, we decided to support this family.”

“The first step was to obtain an official identity for the children, to get them into the civil registry so they could have rights like normal Ecuadorian citizens.”

Catalina accompanied the family to the municipal office in their coastal city of La Libertad to start the long and complicated process of registering the children. The process required them to travel two hours to Guayaquil to collect copies of required government documents, but the church helped support the family’s expenses for their trip.

New identity

Today, Maria and her siblings all have birth certificates and official identity cards. They are attending school and Maria is enrolled in the church’s Compassion sponsorship programme.

Maria identity card

"It is a great blessing to see that these children now have an identity and rights. Their lives have been transformed through the love of God!" Catalina says.

Maria and siblings playing

Maria’s family, grateful for the help they have received, are faithful members of the church. Although the economic situation at home is still difficult, Pamela and her husband now have hope that their children will have a bright future, full of opportunities – not only because they are receiving an education, but also because they have the support of the church and they know that God loves them.

family gaining identity in Ecuador

Your support makes it possible for children like Maria to overcome their circumstances and thrive, without poverty holding them back. Thanks to you, children like Maria can dream of an exciting future, built on lasting hope. Thank you!

WORDS : Nico Benalcazar

PHOTOS : Nico Benalcazar



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