Maria Deysi's Story...


Maria Deysi Aguilar was born on March 15th, 2003, in Okinawa, Bolivia (in the department, or state, of Santa Cruz). She is her mother's third child and only girl. When she was three months old, her mother left their dwelling (a wooden structure with a tarp roof) to look for food, leaving Deysi and her two older brothers alone. As it was a cold night, she had left the embers of their cooking fire burning. A stray spark made it up to the tarp, which caught fire and began to melt and drip onto the dirt floor of their home, where Deysi was sleeping, wrapped in a blanket. The only exposed parts of her body (her face and hands) were severely burned by the burning, liquid plastic of the tarp. By the grace of God, Deysi and her mother made it to the city of Santa Cruz (a two-hour drive) and Deysi spent four months in the burn center at the city's childrens hospital. After two skin grafts and many weeks of painful recovery, she was finally released, but after realizing that she was unable to adequately care for her daughter, Deysi's mother chose to place her in the girls orphanage "Hogar Sagrado Corazon" (Sacred Heart Home) in Montero, shortly before Deysi's second birthday.

How is she now?


Deysi is now 10 years old and will start fifth grade in March. She still lives in the childrens home "Hogar Sagrado Corazon" and is well loved by all. She has a sweet disposition and a quick, easy smile. She is doing well in school and is a hard worker, not easily frustrated and generally well behaved. She has been blessed by more frequent visits from her mother and brothers recently and continues to rekindle the bond that she has with them.

Her skin is completely healed (and has been for some time now) but the effects of the burn are still very noticeable. Deysi has never been self-conscious about her differences, but is approaching an age where those differences will start to matter more. In 2014, thanks to the generosity of Shriner's Children’s Hospital in Boston, and the skill and dedication of their professionals, she has undergone a second surgical procedure (on January 27th). This most recent surgery removed the nail bed of the thickened fingernail on her left hand and grafted skin from her leg onto the back of her left hand, allowing more movement in her fingers and replacing a portion of the scarred skin with her own healthy skin. She has also undergone the first of a series of laser procedures to gradually lighten the areas of (darker) grafted skin on her face. We are so grateful to Shriner's Hospital and to all those who have contributed to allow this second trip to become a reality!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ready to Roll!

We went to Santa Cruz yesterday to pick up our tickets (have I mentioned how much we love American Airlines for their generous donation of our tickets?!).´s official!  We´re leaving Santa Cruz early Tuesday, March 8th (roughly 10am our time--I say "roughly" because you just never know with Viru Viru International Airport--any of you that have been here know what I mean!) and we get into Philly around 1am (sorry, Mom and Dad!).  Our return trip is scheduled for June 3rd.  :)

We hitched a ride to the city with Madre Rosario and Don Pancho, who were going to pick up a lawn mower from the shop, and to buy plants and a new air conditioner for the Hogar store room (where we keep all the dry goods, like flour and sugar, that need to be protected from the humidity).  I sat up front with Don Pancho (who was driving) and Madre and Deysi were in the back seat.  This was my view from the front:

 "You go ahead and sleep, Madre; I´m not tired!"

"Actually, I could use a little shut-eye myself...yawn..."  :) 

We went to the AA office first and thanked everyone (and picked up the tickets), then to the Anavin Travel Agency, whose agents have been of great moral support throughout this process to thank them as well (and, of course, I forgot to take pictures there, even though I DID bring the camera!), and then headed home.

So now, the little red suitcase is getting re-packed with new, cold-weather clothes (thanks to everyone for your generosity--once again it´s being put to good use!), LOTS of books in Spanish (both chapter books to read together and shorter ones that Deysi will work on reading herself) and a few little things for her birthday (which is the 15th of March!).
We´re so excited! 

Friday, February 18, 2011

March 8th!

We will be flying to the US!!!  I will be going to pick up the tickets tomorrow and I´ll post the exact itinerary once I have them. 

We are so grateful to American Airlines for this generous donation and to Tom Ferguson, Mr. Komadina, Mr. Jauregui and Ms. De la Vega for all they did to make this happen!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Possible Travel Date

I have been in touch with representatives from American Airlines, and it looks like they are going to be able to give us free tickets to fly to the US and back for Deysi´s surgery!  What an incredible blessing!  Our tentative date is March 3rd (with a return trip to Bolivia on June 3rd) and we would be flying in and out of Philly.  I will post again when I get official word from American Air, but it looks good!

And I found out that the ten year visa really means that we can make our scheduled trip at any point (but only ONCE) during the next ten years.  It´s still a visa, though!  :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

10 year visa?!

I picked up Deysi´s passport from the DHL office in Santa Cruz yesterday afternoon and, much to my surprise, the expiration date listed is Feb. 2021!! 
Does anyone know more about US visas than I do?
Does this mean she is free to come and go for the next 10 years?!
No matter what, we are very excited to see the visa in her passport.  :) 
We are in the process of figuring out our flight date--I will report back once I know for sure.  I just received an email from our social worker at Shriners, which was so nice.  What a blessing!!

Friday, February 4, 2011

We´re jumping for joy around here...

Yesterday at about noon in the city of La Paz, María Deysi Aguilar became the recipient of a US visa!!! 

This was, of course, after a slightly stressful start to the day, in which:
1. It poured non-stop while we waited in line (outside!)
2. Juana, Deysi´s mom, who had spent the night with her mother and brother, arrived late (traffic jam) and I sprouted a few new white hairs while I waited for her ;)
3. The woman at the reception desk only had Juana´s name on the list and so I was not allowed to go into the embassy with her (THIS WAS A HUGE DEAL--Juana really had little idea of what all the documents in Deysi´s folder were all about, and I had about 2 minutes to try to explain everything to her!!!)  I would just like to point out that this is the SECOND time I have been left out in the cold in front of my own embassy!!

BUT, at the end of the day, and despite nervousness and concerns, Juana came out of the embassy with a huge smile on her face and handed us the sheet that said:
"Su petición para una visa estadounidense ha sido aceptada." 
And suddenly we forgot the rain and the traffic jam and the frantic explanations before the interview.  :) 

It´s only a 3 month visa, and if Deysi needs follow-up surgeries, we will have to file a new petition for a new visa, but we are just so grateful that she was issued the visa and that we can get working on planning our trip!

Thanks again, so much, to all who kept us in prayer yesterday.  I will post again soon regarding how much we have received on Deysi´s behalf, how much has already been spent (the visa process, for example, is quite costly) and with some more specifics on future donations and needs.

We are so incredibly grateful to God and to everyone who has helped us come this far.  Look out, America--here comes Deysi! 

P.S. Extra bonus points if you can name the two jumping girls on the left hand side of this photo--it´s an OLD photo!  (Ahem, ex-voluntarias!)