Hope, as Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn so articulately explain in “A Path Appears,” is a very powerful force in breaking the cycle of poverty. One of the reasons a scholarship is so effective in helping the poorest of the poor is that it provides hope in addition to an education.

Desperately poor people often succumb to debilitating depression, which makes it doubly hard for them to survive and thrive. Time and again, as I met families in Guatemala, I heard this story – how despondent and full of despair the parents were before they were introduced to Estudia Con Amor – so unlike the joyful parents that now greet me. Receiving a scholarship doesn’t just give a girl an education with a hopeful future payoff. It helps an entire family from the moment the scholarship is given because it restores hope and initiative to the parents.

Almost all the girls in the Estudia Con Amor program are being raised by single mothers, having been abandoned by alcoholic husbands. One rare scholarship family with eight children still has an involved father. He is a tailor, an extremely low-income profession in Guatemala, and one day a man who ordered a suit took the suit but didn’t pay. The father, so overcome with anger and despair, became “paralyzed” with depression. He wasn’t able to get out of bed for two years. His children had to drop out of school and survival became increasingly difficult. By the time Sandra came in contact with the family two years ago, the father was starting to get out of bed but couldn’t walk without help, could barely work, and cried constantly. Estudia Con Amor offered scholarships to two of his daughters – Louisa and Manuela.

Luisa wants to study law. Her sister, Manuela, wants to be a teacher. Every year, whatever child is ranked #1 in the school for each grade receives a medal. These two girls have a collection of medals that makes their father beam with pride! They are enormously grateful that they are back in school, and they are studying hard to make the most of their education.

Perhaps most importantly for the family, the scholarships provided hope to the father that allowed him to almost fully recover. He works full time now, is supporting his large family, and he is happy! This is a tremendous blessing for the whole family, so they are already reaping great rewards from the scholarships. Scholarships truly change lives!


Lisa Robinson Spader