Mireya came to us through our friend John, who met her while he was living in Peru for the winter of 2011. He became fast friends with her family and soon decided that he wanted to do something to help their oldest daughter stay in school and have a future. He couldn’t think of a good way to do this until he saw our table at a fundraising event and we began talking about the program. Rather than paraphrase Mireya’s story from him, it seems more appropriate to tell you about her by excerpting his application letter to ONE:
“Mireya Armas Sanchez is a marvelous child. She was eight years old in November of 2011 when her stepfather, Samuel, surprised me by speaking English at his outdoor market stall in Lamas, Peru. I had, rather randomly, decided to spend the winter in this town of about 16,000 in the Amazonian part of Peru, east of the Andes and not far from the equator. Mireya’s mother, Jessica, lives with Samuel and her two daughters in their open-air market stall. She looks after the business while he makes trips to the nearby city to buy merchandise, mostly clothes.”
“It didn’t take me long to discover that Mireya is a special girl. Quiet and obedient during the day, after business hours she becomes the neighborhood vortex. She dances, sings, and invents games and other activities that attract kids from blocks away. She is a born leader if there ever was one.
“Mireya became my Spanish teacher and I started teaching her English. What she wanted to do most was to get on my computer, so I worked out a deal with her parents. She could have an hour on the computer only after an hour of language or math lessons. Of course she quickly mastered the Internet and found lots of girl-appropriate games. I discovered that she has a huge interest in and aptitude for fashion design.”
“Until this school year, Samuel and Jessica has been sending Mireya 15 miles each way by moto-taxi to a school in the nearby city of Tarapoto. Just before I returned to the states, they decided they could no longer afford to do this and instead enrolled her in the local public school. It appears Mireya is thriving there. I arranged for an email address for her and her mother and heard recently that Mireya’s marks have been good, and that she was nominated by her fellow students as the school’s “queen,” though another girl won the crown.
Still, I fear for Mireya’s future. Most girls from rural Peru don’t finish high school and become young mothers with few prospects for economic or professional success. What gives me hope for Mireya is that she is such a popular and natural leader, has tremendous artistic and physical talents, and loves being in school. I truly believe that by lifting the burden of paying for her education from her family’s shoulders she is far more likely to stay in school and have a great chance for an exceptional life.”
ONE is delighted that John found us, and that we can be a conduit for him to help Mireya. We look forward to hearing more about her progress and meeting her one day!
Mireya is in law school! And of course, she’s already leading her study groups, which is no surprise. Mireya turned 18 in June, and this opened up a whole new world for her. John, the man who met her in Peru when she was about 10 years old, set aside a sum of $10,000 US for Mireya in a trust to receive when she turned 18. Well, she opened up a bank account on her birthday, and a few days later, she received her money. This will make her studies possible, and give her a chance in life that she might not otherwise have had. She is a smart, beautiful, talented young woman, and we have no doubt that she will use the money wisely, finish school, and go on to a stellar career in law. We’ll keep you updated as we get news, but for now, we can say, “Felicidades, Mireya! Y que tengas una vida muy feliz y con mucho exito!”
We learned in early May that Mireya passed her exams to get into law school! She is studying in a private university, and working very hard at it. Her mother says she is very dedicated to her studies, which currently appear to be studying the penal and civil code in her country. In all the years we’ve known her, she has never failed to impress us, whether it is her dancing, her studies, her speeches to her class, or her passion for life. Mireya will be an excellent lawyer, and we can’t wait to watch her take her place in her society.
On December 23, 2019, Mireya graduated from high school! It has been a wonderful road with this young woman. We have watched her grow from a precocious 8 year old to a lovely and very confident young woman. We were sadly unable to attend her graduation, but her mother Jessica sent us some photos. Although there are no photos of her receiving her diploma (Jessica says they do not do that there), we received some wonderful photos from her graduation party, which the whole graduating class attends.
Mireya spoke in welcome for the whole class, and the video of her speech is quite impressive. She wants to continue on to study law. If she completes her studies, she will be quite the lawyer, judging by her confidence and poise in front of an audience.
In her speech to the guests, she says that this is not just any day, it’s a very special day in their lives. They’ve been though hardship and happiness and their teachers were always there to help them. She graciously thanks their teachers for their help and the values they have imparted.
The graduation party is a fancy affair, which her whole class attends. Red and black were apparently the colors of the year, and everyone looks very elegant.
Mireya will begin preparing for the university. She wants to attend the National University of San Martin, which is in Tarapoto. She very proudly sent us photos from the university’s website.
We will be helping Mireya through her first year of the university, so we will keep you informed of her progress. She will be taking classes to prepare for her admission exam, in which she will hope to receive high enough scores to study the career of her choice. She’s very excited and we are equally excited to see how she does!
Mireya is finishing out her high school career in fine style. In September, she was elected “Queen” of her school in a beauty contest. It’s clear that Mireya makes an impression on everyone she meets, including her own classmates. Congratulations, Mireya!
Mireya wrote us a midterm letter that we thought you might enjoy. Here is the translation:
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
What is the main difference that you see in yourself between now and when you started high school? How do you think this difference happened?
Well, frankly there are many differences. When I started first year, everything amazed me: how we learned, how we were evaluated, the exams. Even my attitude was different. I thought I was still in 6th grade. I didn’t notice the changes so much and continued to act like I was in primary school, even though they told me that I should no longer be that way. But I continued with the way I was, what differentiated me from the rest was my smile, my way of being, etc.
The changes since the first year of secondary school until now that I am in fifth year, well, they were like BOOM! As time passed, I noticed that little by little things were harder and certainly that was so. When I got to fifth year everything is different. Now is the time to see how things will be much bigger and to think about leaving behind your friends that you shared with during the last five years and to think of what will be of their lives, if we will see each other again, but all that remains is for us to continue ahead.
Describe a quality or attribute that distinguishes you or makes you special.
My smile, everyone always says that first of all I always try to keep my smile. If someone is sad I go and try to console them and they tell me to never lose that smile, it’s the best thing you can have.
You will be graduating from high school in a few months. Describe the process you will go through to get ready for the next step in your life following high school.
Preparing myself, as I am doing so hard and consistently, until I feel myself very capable and sure of myself to be able to take the exam, since now things will be more mature and different.
Mireya has had a very big year! She finished her fourth year of high school doing pretty well in her classes, plus in June she turned 15 and had her Quinceañera, that most important of ceremonies in a young girl’s life. Her mother Jessica sent us photos from her celebration. It was obviously a wonderful day, and one which Mireya will treasure.
Mireya is growing up so fast, but you can still see that sparkle in her eye. She still loves to dance, loves her family, and (for the most part) loves school. Next year is her last year of high school, and what she does after that will be exciting to see.
We’ll end the year’s post with this photo, because we think it speaks perfectly to who Mireya is. She has no trouble being herself, and knowing who that is. Not many 15 year old girls can say that, but Mireya has “being herself” down to an art!
Mireya is nearing the end of her fourth year of high school and she only has one more year to go. She’s doing well, and we are very proud of her! She has recently been talking about studying law, so for her mid-year letter we asked her to talk about that. We are hoping to have her (and all the girls who have a year or so to go until they graduate) start thinking about what they want to do after high school. If they want to continue in the university, what do they want to study and how will they do that? So we asked Mireya to tell us why she wants to study law, and where she would go, how much does it cost, etc. We assured her that this doesn’t mean she has to study law, but that the exercise of researching and thinking about it would be good for her. We also asked her to write the letter, rather than send it as a Facebook message, which is often what she does!
We could not have been more impressed with her letter! It was three full pages of single spaced writing, and she clearly really thought about this. She was really excited to send it to us and wanted us to read it right away and let her know what we thought. Well, we thought it was really impressive! Here is the translation:
To start with, I have been thinking about a career in law for the past year or so. It’s a very important decision. Choosing this career will help me so that people’s rights are heard. I always want the world to be fair. Or better said, I have always wanted that but I believe that if all of us do our part we can accomplish this. I don’t only want people’s rights to be heard, but also respected. It’s about collaborating with social welfare in defense of justice. This decision is very difficult. It will be a lifelong career, but it’s a good option also, since I like words better than numbers. All of this is very complicated but if I decide to study law, it will be because:
—I want our country to be more fair, since right now there is a lot of corruption.
—It’s a very effective career. I like it and I want equal rights for everyone, that things are fair. Rich people as well as poor people “must have equality!”
—When I am at the university, and working on my professional career, it’s no longer just “I want” but “I must do it” taking into account everything I’ve learned.
—I haven’t decided or agreed on what type of law to study but I am most interested in criminal law, which more or less concerns itself with: ensuring the elemental values of peaceful human coexistence. This is more what I have thought of and what I agree with most, but with time I will find out more and perhaps I will have other thoughts about a different profession, but for now, law is what I’m thinking of.
—In Tarapoto there are several public and private universities, but there are also various options in other countries. But if I decide to study and pursue my career here, it would be in the San Martin National University. It’s a public university and I prefer that since in a private university they don’t look at your effort you make or the capabilities that you have. They only look at your economic level and for that and no other reason people are let in. I want to get into the National University through my effort. I want to see where I can give, prove myself, value myself, work with what I learned through my effort, and to say that all the stress, challenges, etc. weren’t in vain and look at myself and say “I did it!”
—I will be rewarded in that moment. I will realize that in life there are many stumbling blocks and that that did not stop me from accomplishing my goal. Obviously, I received the help of my family, above all my mother, for teaching me since I was little about values, for having patience with me, for correcting me, understanding me, counseling me, etc. I want to arrive at that moment where, with much pride, I receive my title and say that, thanks to her I accomplished it and that I will be grateful for that for the rest of my life.
—I want to demonstrate to my little sister that nothing in life is easy and that she has to make an effort and perservere until she accomplishes what she proposed to do. There will be obstacles but I will be there for her, always helping her. I love my mother and sister very much and I say it with tears in my eyes: I appreciate them so much. They are a fundamental support to me. I know it won’t be easy but I know that I will achieve it.
—You study in this career for five years. That’s a lot (ha ha!). It’s a lot for me but I won’t complain because at the end of that five years it will be my whole life doing what I love.
—I found out what the cost for the university is, and there you pay by “cycles.” Each cycle costs about 300 soles and every year has two cycles. You also pay for the admission exam. That’s the exam to enter the university, and if you don’t get in the first time, there will be another charge to take the exam again. You also have to pay for the books, and they are the most costly.
—How am I going to pay for my studies? I’ve been thinking since third year that I will receive the support of my mother and family, but obviously I will have to contribute through any opportunity to work.
—I want to ask you a question. I don’t know how long you will be helping me, only until fifth year? Or will you support me in the university? I would like to receive your support please. It will be very costly and I would be very grateful for your help.
Well, Señora Christa, in any case I will keep you informed, and I will not stop thanking you for the huge help that you have given me and which I value very much.
I’ll say goodbye now. Thank you for everything and take care!
Mireya finished her third year of high school with pretty good grades, and she’s proud of that. Although she recognizes that with only two years left till she graduates, she needs to make her best effort.
Mireya’s year-end letter to the foundation (click to enlarge)
For her year-end letter, we asked her to answer three questions. Here are both her original letter and a translation.
1.How does your family affect who you are? What do you appreciate about your family and how has it shaped you?
My family influences me in many ways, especially my mother. She is the one who gives me enough help, she gives me her advice about how to be a better person since she has enough experience to tell me what is good and bad and which of my friends to play with and which ones not to.
What I appreciate about my family is that they are really persistent and fighters to get what they want. They will make me into a better person, to understand the purpose of life.
2. Describe something you did or accomplished this past year that makes you very proud.
I feel proud for having finished my last trimester with good grades, but I feel like I have to make much more of an effort in 2018, and that’s one of my goals to accomplish.
3. Who is an important role model in your life? Why do you admire this person and what has he or she taught you?
It’s my mother… I admire her because she has demonstrated that I don’t need a father, because for me she is like both mother and father. At times I don’t understand her, but underneath it all I love her. She is my role model to follow. I want her to feel proud of me, and I want her to see that I am accomplishing all my goals and to give her everything she deserves.
February and March 2017
Mireya is back in school after her vacation, during which time she took math classes, played a lot with her sister, and was able to visit a friend of John’s who came to visit. John’s friend, also named John, was able to spend the day with Mireya and her family, and send us some great pictures.
Jessica says that Mireya is super excited to be back in school (we love to hear that!), and is enjoying reuniting with her friends and teachers. She is growing into a lovely young woman. John was really impressed with her and we can’t wait to hear how things go for the year!
Mireya finished her second year of secondary school with pretty good grades. Her history grade is a bit low, but she’s getting some tutoring for that, along with her vacation math class, before the next year starts in February. Mireya is having a lot of fun with a little “job” that she does on weekends. She is part of a dance group that performs at birthday parties, and other events periodically. She loves to dance, as we all know, and she makes a little bit of money, which is nice for her. Hopefully, we can get some photos of her dancing to put on her page.
For now, Mireya’s letter to us is attached below. We asked her about her best friend, and we wanted to include her original letter, because of all the emoticons she included. This girl is nothing if not enthusiastic!
Hello Mrs. Christa, it’s Mireya and I am going to answer your questions.
1. Who is your best friend?
Answer: The best friend I have in the world is my mother.
2. Why are you best friends?
Answer: Because she counsels me and tells me what is good and what is bad and she tells me that I should continue on with my goals and my dreams.
3. What things do you do together?
Answer: What we love to do together is go to the pool, we go to the movies, and we have a really good time together. I also go with my friends to the plaza at times I go to their houses and they visit me.
4. Tell us a story about you and your best friend?
Answer: We go on a trip and she takes me to the pool, we share a lot of things together with my mother’s husband and that is our story together.
Mireya’s mid-term grades were really good, all except for English, which is a bit low. But overall, she’s doing great, and we received a lovely photo of Mireya with a friend on her 13th birthday! She’s growing up so fast, and she looks quite the grown woman. We just hope that she will stay a little girl for a bit longer, stay in school and work hard before she turns her eyes to the boys, because when she looks like this, we’re pretty sure they are already looking at her!
In February of 2015, Mireya entered secondary school. She and her mother and sister moved to Tarapoto in the end of 2014, and she is very happy to be with new friends in a new school, and is doing really well. We are very happy to hear this, and we can’t wait to see how she likes high school. She is apparently really enjoying herself; we received some photos of her via her mother’s Facebook page. She’s growing up so fast!
We received Mireya’s end of the year grades for 2014 in a packet along with her end of the school year letter to us. We knew she had done well, but it was lovely to see it all written out. She continually gets top marks and is obviously a very good student who cares a lot about her performance. Her letter to us was wonderful! Here is the translation:
What did you like the most about this past school year?
Answer: The thing I liked the best about this school year was having met new friends and new teachers.
What was the most difficult for you?
Answer: The most difficult this year was the subject of science and the environment.
What is something that is a challenge for you?
Answer: Something that is a challenge for me was having arrived late one day to classes.
Describe five goals that you would like to accomplish in school or in your life during the next year.
• Study with more effort
• Make a schedule of when I can study and when I can play
• Do well on my homework
• Arrive earlier to class
• Learn new things in class
Describe how you could use your studies or what you are learning to help a friend or someone in your family.
Answer: I could use my studies to help my friends. I could do it like this:
I could encourage them to take a step forward, there are some who don’t have that opportunity like me and I want to give them that opportunity.
Tell us what you would like to do to support that person and how you would do it.
Answer: To help that person I would tell them that they have a future ahead of them and not to waste it. I would do it like this: helping them in their studies and other things.
Mireya’s mid-year grades were a little lower than in the past; high school is proving a little more challenging than she’s used to. But in her mid-year letter to us, she seems ready to work hard, and she still has big dreams: an architects AND owner of a dance studio!
1. I am learning new things, like how to develop myself more, and learning things that are more complicated and many more things is a goal for me. The class I choose is math because it is my favorite class. In math we are learning all about sets, which is very easy to do, but there are some that are a bit more complicated, and now we are fed up with these exercises. Now that I am in the second trimester things are more difficult for me but there is nothing that cannot be resolved by practicing hard.
2. What interests me the most is to not repeat my grade and to move forward and take advantage of the opportunity that you are giving me with the scholarship, and I am going to try hard to not disqualify in my classes and not to fail in my courses. Because not too many people receive a scholarship and thanks to you all for the help that you are giving me.
3. My goals are that when I am older to help children to take advantage of their studies and to move forward and give them an opportunity, give them help so that they don’t lose their desire to study. My goal for me will be that I will move forward through any obstacle or barrier that stops me from moving ahead and make a lot of effort if there are problems in my family. That motivates me to reach where I want to go.
4. My other goal will be that when I am in school I am going to pay attention to all the classes and raise my hand to speak, and all those kinds of things, for example. My dance class, as I told you I like to dance very much and to participate in everything that the school offers and also to get up early to study and help my mother with whatever she needs help in because she also helps me a lot with what I need.
5. When I am studying something for my professional life, what I would like most to study is architecture, and also as part of my career I would like to have a dance academy. I love to dance and I would love to teach dance to other children because dancing is also my passion.
Mireya’s grades at the end of the year were improved, and she seems to be doing really well. She wrote us a letter to answer some of our questions and the one answer we really wanted to show is the answer to this question: Why do you think it’s important to continue with your studies and your education.” Here’s the translation of her answer:
To begin with, for me it is very important to continue with my studies because I will be very proud of myself for all that I have achieved to this point. I want to be a professional for many reasons: 1: Because this way I can help my family the same way they have helped me. 2: Because when I am a professional I will feel happy with myself because there are people qho don’t have the same opportunities as others. I had the opportunity to get this scholarship, I will take advantage of it and I won’t take it as a game because you are offering me my future. I am very grateful to you all for everything you have done for me and I know that being a professional will make you all very proud of me because I accomplished my goal. That is my answer, thank you for everything. Greetings to everyone and to my friend John. Thank you.
We received Mireya’s end of the 2013 school year grades, and they are very impressive! She received “distinguished status” in all her classes, and easily passed on to 6th grade – congratulations, Mireya! We also received a sweet letter from her. It was beautifully written and thought out. Our contact Sarah suggested that perhaps Mireya’s parents had a little hand in it, but that’s OK with us. If the parents are involved in their daughters’ education, so much the better. It may take a village, but it starts with a family.
Mireya’s letter to us translates as follows:
“Hello Miss Christa, what a pleasure to greet you through my letter to tell you that here in Lamas the weather is fabulous and beautiful, but I am happier because I went into vacation passing all of my classes and at the same time starting my summer class (mathematical reasoning) on January 3.
1) The classes that I like are: complete communication, science and environment and mathematics. My teacher’s name is Nixon Gonzales Perez. And what I learn the most are equations. And I would like to tell you a lot more things one day when you come to Lamas.
2) I am very happy because thanks to this scholarship I am going to be able to finish my studies without any setbacks here and in the future abroad. I am grateful to God for having permitted me to know such a good person with such a good heart as my friend John who, thanks to his actions has managed to include me in this scholarship, for which my parents are very grateful since in the future I will be a very good professional.
3) And what I think in my heart is that I feel very happy because I needed this help, the truth is that I never thought I would meet a friend like John who changed my life since he has promised me when I finish secondary school I will go to study in the United States or wherever I want, that will depend on me.
See you soon, Miss Christa. Thank you for everything. God bless you. Bye. Mireya.”