AFE´s staff serves as the extended family of God for the children of the garbage dump. When older brothers and sisters are gang members or drug addicts, AFE´s staff serves as the positive influences they need. When parents are inept or guardians are cruel, AFE´s teachers love their children unconditionally and provide a place where they can feel physically and emotionally safe. AFE´s teachers get to know each child personally, they watch to make sure they are eating well, they notice if they come to class with a sad look in their eyes, they visit them in their homes if the child does not show up for school one day. They advocate for the children in every way possible.
This function of AFE, serving as the family of God, will prove especially important in the life of Reina Margarita, a new student at AFE. Reina is a new recruit from the garbage dump, and this is her first experience in school. She is nine years old and in the first grade. She lives with her mother (who also works in the dump), and her older sister who is addicted to yellow glue. Her father died last year when he was hit by a car as he crossed the street in front of her home. Reina does not have much in her life. She no longer has the love of a father or an older sister. All she knows is the trash dump, but she does have an extended family of God in the staff at AFE.
If we can hold on to her, I know what will happen to Reina Margarita. She will feel the consistent warmth and affection here and blossom before our eyes. She will find her place among the other students, who have already made amazing strides themselves. She will discover what she´s good at doing and what she enjoys. She will begin to wonder how such an unconditional love exists, and she will be pointed to Jesus. In a couple of years, a pretty, happy young woman will be unrecognizable from the sad little girl I know today. I know this to be true because we have seen it happen time and again with other students of AFE.
What a joy it is to see God place his hand into the lives of children like Reina Margarita, to heal and transform them from the inside out. And what a privilege it is to be part of it.