Before she entered kindergarten, Isabela* found herself alone in El Salvador. After spending time in a government-run orphanage, she eventually became one of the first children to move into a new home in the city of Oloculita – Exodo Childrens’ Home.
Once at Exodo, Isabela began to receive intentional care through education, spiritual and emotional support, health care, and love from a trained, on-site house parent. Surrounded by support at Exodo, Isabela thrived. Fast-forward more than a decade to a conversation between Hoosier nurse Kathleen Gannon and Hands of Hope Executive Director Suzy Roth. As a children’s home partner, Hands of Hope had established a relationship with Exodo through child sponsorship and support trips.
“I did a lot of medical mission work for many many years,” Kathleen says. “As I got to know Suzy, she said, ‘You should come with me sometime [to Exodo].’”
So Kathleen went. She remembers that first trip to El Salvador like it was yesterday. “The property is so beautiful,” she says. “They had four children’s houses. They were just building a girls’ transition home [for young adults].They had a chicken farm, greenhouses where they grew their vegetables…It’s incredible.”
Over the next few years, Kathleen found herself returning to El Salvador several times each year to serve the kids and staff of Exodo through mentoring, Bible studies, play, and relationship building. During one of those trips, Kathleen met Isabela. At that point, the Exodo graduate had already moved into her own place, where she was working toward a degree in accounting. But Isabela often traveled back to the campus of Exodo to spend time with the kids living there.
“She is kind of like the mama bear,” Kathleen says, sharing that Isabela often supports graduates of Exodo by helping them locate housing, even sharing space in her own home. “She’s gentle and loving,” Kathleen says. “She is extraordinary.”
While working toward her degree in accounting, Isabela was also working a full-time job and a second part-time job to pay for school, a schedule that was both physically exhausting and forcing her to take classes at a slower pace. Exodo leadership decided to launch a scholarship fund for any child who had called Exodo home. Isabela is a scholarship recipient, which allows her to work fewer hours and focus on more time in the classroom.
“The impact of the scholarship is huge,” Isabela says. “Now, I can go to church, I can rest a bit, and I am so grateful for this opportunity to study.” Kathleen believes that Exodo empowers and equips the kids who live there to not only survive, but thrive.
“This ministry does so much good in so many areas of child welfare, in advancing the safety, health, and wellness of the kids,” Kathleen says. “It’s grown so much over the years. It’s amazing to me.”
Currently, 22 kids at Exodo are ready for sponsorship, which provides each child with safe housing, education, food, health care, clothing, and other support.
“The impact Exodo has had on my life has been significant,” Isabela says. “It was difficult at times, but I’m so happy the Lord showed me he was always taking care of me and he had a plan for my life.”
She adds that she is eager to do what she can to help other kids at Exodo. “My dream has always been that I could have a career where I could work full-time and help Exodo and the kids,” she says. “There’s not a more rewarding job than to see the progress of the children, and especially as a kid who grew up there myself, to be able to tell them that they can get ahead in life. This inspires me every day to do everything possible to realize that dream of helping them.”
If YOU would like to sponsor a child at Exodo, visit THIS PAGE to learn more.
*Name changed for privacy purposes.
Written By: Sarah Norris