El Salvador: Sponsored child reaches for Olympic dreams

Competitive swimmer and sponsored child Javier has his sights set on competing in the Olympics.

Story and photos by Katia Maldonado, World Vision El Salvador
Published July 18, 2012 at 12:00am PDT

At just 12 years old, Javier Alejandro Portillo Paz has already won four medals for his swimming skills. And he’s just getting started.

“My dream is to be a champion,” he says. His eyes are set on the ultimate swimming competition: the Olympics.

Swim lessons unleash passion

Javier might not even be swimming, let alone winning medals.

“When he was little, he suffered a lot from bronchitis,” says his mother, Idalia. “I never imagined that he now would be a swimmer with great capacity in his lungs and a resistance that allows him even to compete with adults.”

Although he lives in a community surrounded by rivers and close to a community pool, Javier was not a strong swimmer as a child.

Thanks to a swimming program initiated by World Vision, Javier and 36 other children were able to learn to swim or improve their abilities. 

“In the beginning, the teacher told us we could swim, but without style or technique,” Javier says. “Now, it is different; we are children that know how to swim as sports people do on television,” says Javier.

Sponsored child Javier, 12, stands in front of his house, proudly displaying the medals he has won from swimming competitions. (Photo: Katia Maldonado/World Vision)

‘Swimming is my life’

Thanks to child sponsorship, Javier and the other children in the swimming program are able to focus their energy, find their identity through sport, and stay away from negative and violent influences that permeate El Salvador. 

Javier, for one, only thinks about swimming. He is a good student in his seventh-grade class, but he can’t wait to head to the pool as soon as the bell rings. His dream is to become a swimming instructor — after winning an Olympic medal, of course. 

“I feel that being here swimming helps me not to think in idleness or going out with people that will [not] do any good to my life,” he says.

Without sponsorship, Javier would not have learned to be such a good swimmer. He likely would not have been able to be on a swim team at all. 

Javier’s mother does what she can to provide for her son, her two older daughters, and grandchild. With limited income opportunities, what she earns through agriculture during the rainy season is not enough to sustain the family’s basic needs, let alone luxuries like swimming. 

Javier hopes that the sport of swimming will carry him and his family far. “Swimming is my life. I see myself competing in Olympic swimming pools and winning medals,” he says with a smile.

How you can help

Thank God for the opportunity provided to Javier. Pray that he would continue to excel and pursue his passion for swimming.

Sponsor a child in El Salvador. Child sponsorship provides access to life-giving basics like clean water, nutritious food, healthcare, education, and more — giving a child, family, and entire community the foundation upon which to pursue dreams, as Javier is doing now.