When I was a child, my house didnâ€™t have real walls. There was just a fence and we had a hole as a bathroom. Money was scarce. I was very aware of the poverty around me.
Two decades later and my life couldnâ€™t be more different. Iâ€™ve achieved my dream of studying and becoming a fishing engineer. Iâ€™ve been able to start a new cycle in my family â€“ one without poverty. My name is Rosa and this is my story.
Â A battle with hunger and mental illness
Growing up in rural Peru, I used to cry because I was hungry. My mum was so desperate, she gave us boiled potatoes mashed with oil for the whole day. We didnâ€™t have enough clothes and I had to wear my oldest siblingsâ€™ torn clothes for months.
When I was seven I joined the Compassion project. I enjoyed going there because I was able to eat varied meals and meats! I enjoyed doing crafts. It was a different world compared to my house.
Even with the help of the church project, life wasnâ€™t always easy. My mum had her first schizophrenia attack when I was 9 years old, and she had to stay in the hospital for 3 months. My older sisters took care of me and my younger siblings. When my mum came home she was really bad, vomiting every time she ate. She was numb and we had to take care of her making sure she took her pills.
Things between my parents were not good. My mum said that my dad was not a good husband and she got depressed. She had another relapse and this time my dad decided to abandon the family. Those were the most difficult months.
Letters of hope
I remember my project tutor said to me, â€˜Rosa, we know what your family is going through. We are here to help you.â€™ I used to suffer but I knew God was with me. I read the Bible a lot and I owned every word and promise. I felt very good. God helped me to really focus on who He was for me and for my family instead of focusing on my mumâ€™s illness.
In the letters, my sponsors always told me to show my beautiful smile. They encouraged me to do my best and they were really passionate about my life. My relationship with my sponsors taught me not to hide my problems. So I was released from shyness when I told my sponsors about the problems I had at home.
My dream: becoming a fishing engineer
Thanks to Compassion, I was motivated to study and fulfill my dreams. I was 16 years old when I finished high school and my project director told me they would help me pay for my pre-college preparation. That was a huge support. I had already decided to become a fishing engineer due to the vocational training I had received at church.
That was a good year. In spite of my mumâ€™s condition, the Lord helped me enter university and my dad returned home. I couldnâ€™t be happier.
Thanks to God, I then had the opportunity to travel to Spain for a year and a half to get my Masters Degree in Marine Biology. It was an unforgettable experience for me.
I am thankful to God for the blessings He has provided to me and my family through Compassion. Iâ€™ve got my masterâ€™s degree, I have a lovely husband and a strong marriage with a beautiful baby.
I love being a mum as well as being a professional person. I want to educate by baby Adriana to become a good person for this country. There is much peace in my family. Weâ€™ve even been able to build my parentsâ€™ house.
Award-winning research bringing national change
At 27 years old, Rosa is reaching further than she ever imagined. In 2016, she submitted her thesis to the National Fisheries Society and won first place in the Aquaculture Research Category. Her thesis is already being used by Peruvian scallop producers to spot the signs of scallop maturation so they can strategically plan their harvests. The economic benefits of Rosaâ€™s research will be significant as Peruâ€™s fishing industry grows: between 2005 and 2014 Peruâ€™s annual scallop exports rose from $28.7 million to $132.9 million.*
And thereâ€™s no stopping this hard working mum and scientist. Rosa has just secured a scholarship to undertake a Ph.D. in Marine Biology at Franco-Peruvian Doctoral School and is teaching a Masterâ€™s course at her old university.
When Rosa tells her remarkable story, itâ€™s hard not to be struck by her joyful thankfulness towards her sponsor and local church. She praises God for the sponsor and local churchÂ who were willing to sacrifice a little to bring comfort, care and opportunity to a frightened little girl living in a house with no walls.
*Sources: Oxford Business Group