Older and Kim

As many of you know, Savanna and I have 3 ministries with which we work here in Costa Rica: the orphanage Hogar de Vida, the private school La Palabra de Vida, and the public school La California. We have been doing weekends and afternoon tutoring at La California for over two years, and now we have our first two students from La California starting at La Palabra de Vida in February.

Older and Kim have been coming to English tutoring with us since the end of 4th grade. They came to all the weekend events in 5th grade, and after a year of after school tutoring during 6th grade they are finally starting 7th grade at a truly bilingual school. I’m extremely proud of them, and I would like to take a moment here to show them off to you all.


Older wearing his cheer shirt. He was so embarrassed when I explained to him what cheer was!

Older wearing his cheer shirt. He was so embarrassed when I explained to him what cheer was!

Older is a cutie. He’s dramatic and fearless. Yes, his name is “older”. No, he’s not the older brother in his family. In fact, he’s the younger brother! Older lives with his older brother and his grandma in a slum by the airport. His mother left his family so long ago that he doesn’t remember her. His father, who works as a janitor in a near by shopping plaza, got remarried but to a woman who lives on the other side of San Jose. So he only spends 3 nights a week with Older and his brother, and then goes to live with his other family for the rest of the week.

When I met Older’s grandmother, I was holding a meeting for all the parents of La California students who were interested in after school English tutoring. I wrote up a handout with dates and details for each family. As I handed it to Older’s grandmother, she refused it and said, “No leo.” (I don’t read.) Living in a house where his care-taker can’t read and his father is gone most nights, Older has become an incredibly independent and tough little guy – with all the self confidence you could squeeze into 4’3″ boy.

Older’s a sweetheart; he makes friends easily, and his playful nature makes the friendship last. I have confidence that he will be able to rise to any challenges socially or academically that the school would put to him.


Kim's Bio PicKimberly is a shy thin girl from the same slum as older. Her front door looks out onto the runway of the airport. I’m pretty sure that through all the years of tutoring she’s never failed to turn in a homework assignment. School isn’t easy for Kim. When she doesn’t know the answer immediately, she often freezes up and silently considers the question until she has formulated the whole answer in her head. In similar way, math is difficult for her, because she doesn’t like starting a solution if she’s not sure what the answer will be down the line. But, oh boy, her memory for vocabulary is astounding. It’s become a bit of a joke during tutoring that if I ask what a word means, everyone turns to Kim.

Kim comes from a mixed family, both her parents had kids already and then had Kimberly and her younger brother. Every time I see Kim’s little brother, we thumb war. When he wins, his smile shows his teeth rotting out of his mouth. Her mother, Glenda, likes to send me Christian chain emails that always end in “pass this along to 10 people and remind them of God’s grace.” Her father works construction, but the work isn’t steady.

Kimberly is an extremely hard worker. Honestly, she needs to be. Like I said, school is hard for her, and it’s about to get harder. I pray that she is able to keep up. She’s done everything that I’ve asked her to do, she just needs to keep on chuggin’.


If these two get through La Palabra de Vida and graduate, they are all but guarenteed a job working in call center, speaking English. These jobs pay really well. For example, the son of a janitor at La Palabra de Vida recently graduated high school and began working at a call center. In just two years, he’s making more money than his father and paying his own way through university. So for Older and Kim, graduating from a place like La Palabra de Vida means lifting their family out of poverty.


These two have been awarded a 100% scholarship to come to the school this year. However, the funds have not yet been raised for school supplies, uniforms, transportation, and their tuition beyond this year. Would you considering partnering with us to open new doors for Older and Kim? If you would like to make a donation to help these kids, please contact me at jmsmllkn@gmail.com.


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