Imagine flying on an airplane for the first time, bound for a foreign country you’ve never visited, to give a speech to 7,000 people who speak eight different languages.
Now imagine doing that at the age of twelve.
Last month, twelve-year-old Mercy was selected to represent Honduras and her community at the 4Life International Convention in Salt Lake City, Utah. Foundation 4Life has been a partner with Feed the Children since 2010 and has supported our Food & Nutrition programs in several countries. In addition, Foundation 4Life has adopted two communities to provide everything from school supplies and new classrooms to projects supporting livelihood development.
Mercy’s adventure began on the airplane, her first ever, during which she peered out the window at cities, rivers and even rooftop swimming pools—a very different vantage point from her usual one from a car, bicycle or on foot in her community.
During her layover in Miami, Florida, Mercy experienced firsthand the cultural melting pot of hair and skin color, wardrobe, tattoos and body piercings that exists in the United States—sights and experiences she had only imagined or seen on TV.
Once in Salt Lake City, Utah, the host city for Bring Dreams Home: 4Life International Convention, Mercy was given the royal treatment—a hotel room with a view, meals from restaurants and many exciting adventures. Her favorite experience was seeing penguins, sea otters and other sea creatures at the Living Planet Aquarium. Although she missed the comfortable heat of her native Honduras, she was very excited to feel the fresh snow that fell during her visit and covered the ground like a “white carpet.” Like so many girls her age, she captured the experience with lots of photos and selfies, and she made fast friends with Bea, another teen ambassador who was bringing greetings and thanks to 4Life on behalf of her community in the Philippines.
Heidy Mejia, Regional Communications Specialist in Honduras for Feed the Children, accompanied Mercy to Salt Lake City. In her account of the trip, Heidy wrote, “Seeing Mercy enjoy experiences that many people consider normal—boarding a train, an airplane, an elevator; opening the room of the hotel with a card instead of a key; automatic water faucets, a nice bed, a bathroom with warm water in the mornings; cornflakes with chocolate milk, a good piece of cake—you realize how great these simple pleasures can be when you aren’t used to them.” Heidy also marveled at the ways Mercy and Bea became immediate friends and could communicate with one another despite not speaking a common language.
When it came time for Mercy to speak during the convention, she stood on the stage with Bianca Lisonbee, 4Life Co-Founder and Vice Chairwoman of the Board, and Cynthia Gerlinger, winner of the “At the Heart of it” service award. The theme of the 4Life convention was “Bring Dreams Home,” and Mercy brought that message to life as she thanked the gathering for supporting her community through development projects, education and food:
Good afternoon 4Life! My name is Mercy and I’m from Honduras.
Thanks to your donations, the school in my community has a feeding center, a vegetable garden, a recycle center, new bathrooms, an incinerator and two new classrooms!
There are a lot of children, mothers and families who benefit from the donations that you make to Foundation 4Life.
You are the answers to our prayers. Your donations are the progress of my community.
I dream of becoming a doctor someday and, like you, help other people. Thank you for everything you do… THANK YOU 4LIFE!
“From the moment of her speech, she was an instant celebrity,” wrote Heidy. “People wanted to take pictures with her and talk to her. People gave her a lot of advice, asked her many questions about her experience with Foundation 4Life, and told her to reach for her dreams to help others.”
“All these memories and experiences were possible thanks to the support of Foundation 4Life, the people who donate to the foundation, and Feed the Children,” said Heidy. “People think that they are helping a hungry child with food, but it’s more than that. More than they can imagine.”