My Dad, My Hero
Being a good father is a tough job. It's even harder when you can't afford windows for your home.
Dads come in all shapes and sizes. There’s the outdoorsy dad, whose ‘going fishing’ sticker, faded and peeling, is still proudly displayed on his back windscreen. There’s the handy dad, who considers himself a carpenter/landscaper/plumber. There’s the slightly geeky dad, who loves winning family trivia night. And then there’s the dad who has an endless store of terrible jokes; or is that all dads?
Marisol and Melissa’s father doesn’t quite fit into a typical dad category. But if they had to choose, it would probably be ‘survivor’. It would definitely be ‘hero’. When their mum abandoned them years ago, their dad did everything he could to make sure they were loved, protected and provided for.
“I had to be father and mother for my children,” says their father, Jose Escobar. “I took them to school, worked, washed and cooked. It was very sad and, sometimes, my heart hurts.”
Jose and his two daughters—aged nine and 12—live in a small one-room home in the mountainous community of El Alto, Bolivia. The family shares two beds, and though their home has windows, they can’t afford the protection of glass. On a cold winter night, the temperature inside can dip below freezing.
It mightn’t be luxurious, but the family’s home came at a hefty price. A skilled shoemaker, Jose gave up his trade to purchase the precious shelter for his family.
“I used to make new shoes, but in order to have money to buy this small piece of land where we live, I had to sell my sewing machine,” he said.
Instead, Jose seeks odd labouring jobs to keep the family afloat. Work is irregular, but he usually brings in about $29 (AU$4) a week. After food, electricity, water and school fees are accounted for, there is little remaining to put towards his daughters’ futures. Some weeks, when work is scarce, sending his daughters to school with a packed lunch means taking nothing for himself. Needless to say, money is tight.
“We don’t drink milk, we drink [black] tea or coffee,” says Marisol. “Sometimes we buy a small bag of cocoa for $2 (AU$0.30). We walk to school, which takes around half an hour, so we don’t spend money on transportation.”
But Jose happily sacrifices his own comforts to make life easier for his girls. For his own needs, he relies solely on prayer.
“I spend around AU$1, or a little more, weekly on their schooling,” says Jose. “If I can’t go to the school meetings or marches, I have to pay a fine, so I make an effort to go even if it means losing a day’s work. I don’t buy clothes [for myself]. But God is great and He keeps us well. We may not have lots of things, but our hearts are full of Him. He takes care of us.”
When Marisol was registered in a local Child Sponsorship Program, Jose saw it as a gift from God. At the child development centre, Marisol is given meals, extra help with her education and time to socialise with other kids in the community.
“I love to attend the centre and do the activities,” says Marisol. “Right now I am participating in a Bible drawing contest. And we always receive food; I like the fried chicken the best!”
When it came time for Melissa to start high school, the program staff also helped her get a scholarship, freeing up much-needed money towards other pressing needs.
“The Child Sponsorship Program is a great help for us, [especially] for my daughters,” says Jose. “They attend the centre and have lunch there. The program staff treat them with love. I thank God for opening this program; without it, what would become of us?”
Three years later, Jose no longer sees himself as a single parent. The Child Sponsorship Program staff, the local church through which it is run and his daughter’s sponsor have became like their extended family. They are there to help provide for all their needs—including buying glass for the family’s windows.
“I thank the Lord very much—He sent me a gift from Heaven,” says Jose. “I am happier now. I hold on only to God, and then to my daughters.”
If you're interested in finding out more about Child Sponsorship Programs to help other children like Marisol, visit Compassion.com.au.