The voice of a community

Updated Jul 19, 2019
When you live in a region plagued by violence and poverty, life options can be limited. Born amid El Salvador’s bloody civil war in the 1980s, Leonardo’s path pointed toward becoming either a farmer, like his parents, or losing himself to the gang violence that gripped the country. 
At the time, food was scarce, and Leonardo’s family often relied on tortillas and salt to eat. There was no clean water to drink, so the family had to spend the little money they had to buy bottled water. Other day-to-day activities, like bathing, had to be done in a river filled with garbage. 
Having an optimistic approach in such circumstances was challenging. But Leonardo was an outlier. He was eager to write his own story and not let external factors determine his future. 

A young boy from El Salvador stand at the door of a wooden hutLeonardo’s family wood-and-tin house, that was completely destroyed after an earthquake. 

The turning point 

At the age of 7, Leonardo and his family had a new option unfold. He was finally able to go to school and was provided with school supplies, shoes, and a uniform, all made possible when Leonardo became a World Vision sponsored child. Through sponsorship, he and his siblings had access to education; and his family started to receive nutritious food.  

“It was the biggest blessing,” says his mom. “It was a blessing from God that people cared so much to help us.” 

At the time, Leonardo had no idea of the positive impact World Vision would have on his life, his family and his community. 

Just the beginning ... 

As a sponsored child, Leonardo discovered and developed his potential. At the age of 14, he enrolled in World Vision’s community leadership training program, which enabled him to identify problems in his region and discuss ways to solve them. As a teenager he served as president of the child and youth board of San Julian. In this role, he encouraged other kids to stay in school. 

A young boy from El Salvador
Young Leonardo. 

Even when tragedy struck, and the family’s house was destroyed by an earthquake, Leonardo continued to thrive. One year after the earthquake, at the age of 17, he managed to attend university. 

Community engagement 

Today, Leonardo is helping his community so others do not have to face the same challenges he experienced. He is the manager of the city water utility and ensures that people in the region have clean water, something he always wished for as a child. 

"I believe that no one should live without clean water. As a civil servant, I'm making the changes that I always dreamed of. That is why they appointed me, because of my voice in the community." 

A young man from El Salvador operates a water pump system.
Today, Leonardo is the manager of the city water utility. 

Leonardo broke the poverty cycle in his family. He thanks World Vision for the lessons he learned. “As a sponsored child I had a different path set out for me. World Vision was my second school, where I learned about the culture of peace, service and integrity. Not to mention the essential values that helped me become the person I am today.” 

Thanks to the kindness of a sponsor, Leonardo was able to write his own story, and positively impact his community. 

A young man from El Salvador poses for the photo with his mother and fatherLeonardo and his parents.