Daughter, sister, mentor, leader: in each of Margarita’s roles in life, sponsorship has bloomedMargarita at her home in the Yerevan community in Armenia.
Margarita ushers me into her family’s dining room. We just finished talking about her time as a sponsored child, what she’s up to now and her plans for the future. On the table is a spread of baked goods and fruit—evidence that the 14-year-old had completed catering training offered by World Vision (the training helps youths get part-time work in the Armenian community of Yerevan
). Margarita’s grandmother, Narina, and mother, Armine, welcome me to take a seat, to sit back, to have a cup of coffee. I had talked with Margarita for so long, surely I could do for something to snack on.
Margarita leaves me at the table with the food and in good company. Narina pours cups for my translator and me. We settle into our chairs. I probably don’t need caffeine, though—I’m still energized by Margarita’s account of success. She’s a youth leader and a mentor. Moreover, she’s recently started management classes with a plan to go to university for economics. After talking with her, I have a hard time imagining a better teenage daughter.
“I’m very proud of Margarita,” Armine says. “I believe she will have a great future.”
I agree. And the food? Like the company, it’s also good.From left: Margarita, her grandmother Narina, her mother Armine, and her brother Marat outside their home.Before Coffee
Margarita lives with her grandmother, mother, brother and older sister in a modest home in an urban community. She shares a bedroom with her older sister. Her father works in Russia, but keeps in touch with the family. My conversation with Margarita covered as much as her life as possible as time allowed. Here is some of what I learned during our talk:
- She is most proud of completing the sponsorship workshops. What sticks with her are the lessons about health and children’s rights. “It’s a right to have a voice in your family, a right to play and have free time, a right to have an education, a right to live.”
- Margarita has chosen to teach what she has learned to fourth and fifth graders. “I want children to know their rights,” she tells me. “I like to teach them. They are so keen and they ask questions. I like the feeling that I left them with the knowledge I gave them something.”
- Margarita has a teaching philosophy many kids would probably want their teachers’ to adopt. “When teaching,” she says, “the most important thing is to listen to the child and let him know you value his opinion. This will encourage him to learn.”
- In Grade 9, Margarita was the head of her school’s student council. The council advocated for activity classes, organized an arts and crafts fair and used proceeds from the fair to buy school materials.
Margarita (in wheelchair) during a demonstration commemorating the International Day of Disabled Children.Coffee Conversation
- Margarita is the leader of a youth advocacy group. The group has taken on issues ranging from child protection to HIV and AIDS awareness. (The day after I meet with Margarita, her group holds a demonstration commemorating the International Day of Disabled Children.)
While I sip my coffee, Margarita’s mother tells me about her daughter’s time as a sponsored child. “She acquired new skills. She became a different person. She became organized,” Armine says. “I’m very happy that at her age she knows so much and is able to teach others on [children’s] rights.” One of the “others” includes Margarita’s 11-year-old brother, Marat, who is sponsored.
I’m curious about Margarita’s ability to teach. I ask Armine if her daughter has ever taught her something. Armine’s mouth opens slightly, not sure how to respond. Then Narina says, “Don’t be shy. Say what you’ve learned.”
Armine hesitates another second before saying, “I’ve learned a lot about what to do in the kitchen.”
There’s a beat of silence in the room, then joyful laughter.Margarita (left) and her brother Marat at their home.
After we quiet, I ask about something unpleasant—something Margarita had mentioned. She had told me that a year earlier Marat had a hernia that required surgery. I ask Margarita’s mother about dealing with her son’s health scare. She says that when Marat was diagnosed, the family knew they couldn’t afford his surgery. Armine was scared, but she turned to World Vision staff to see if the organization could help. World Vision could, arranging for the sponsored child’s surgery.
I turn to Marat, who’s hanging out close by. He tells me that his hernia had caused pain in his side, but after a month-long recovery from surgery, he was healed, pain-free and back in gym class at school.
Knowing of Marat’s sponsorship, I ask if he has a message for his sponsor that I could pass on. “I want to thank my sponsor,” Marat says. “And I wish him a green path,” which is a way of saying good luck in Armenia.Visit Ends
Before my group says goodbye, Margarita asks us to join her in the kitchen. She takes a seat at the table and grabs a red apple and a knife. Her intentions are artistic. She would like to show us how a fruit becomes a flower. With the patience and skill of a cooking show host, Margarita carves the apple. No TV magic needed—in minutes, Margarita makes her last cut, and presents us with a rose.Margarita makes a cut.The carving continues.Margarita's apple 'rose.'
________This article was published on February 27, 2014.