Luana Ramos Diaz, 15, is an officer in the World Vision-run Children’s Parliament in Huanta, Peru.

A former sponsored child, Luana has been active in the Children’s Parliament since she was 9.  She wants to go to college in Lima and become a graphic designer.

As an antidote to her exhausting life—serving as secretary of the Children’s Parliament, maintaining top marks in math, and helping her divorced mother around the house—she leans on Matthew 11:28. “If you have problems, anything you are bearing, put it in the hands of God,” she says. “Then you will be peaceful and can go on in life.”

Luana knows where to place her burdens. She also knows, thanks to the Children’s Parliament, where to direct her opinions. A new expectation for Huanta’s children is that authorities will listen when they speak.

Though soft-spoken, the teen knows exactly what she’d say to her country’s president if given the chance: “Peru has an education budget of 4 or 5 percent of the GDP, and I would ask him to raise that percentage,” she says.

“I like to give my opinion,” Luana says. “But what I like best is to participate.” She cites the Children’s Parliament campaigns that reach out to other kids in need. “We do this because of love,” she says.

The sky’s the limit for children in Huanta, Peru, where 19 years of child sponsorship and community development have helped families overcome a violent past. Today, Huanta’s children are equipped with the creativity and confidence to help lead their community into a promising future.

Unfortunately, many girls don’t have the opportunities Luana enjoys. Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, executive director of U.N. Women, says gender inequality stands in the way of achievement for many girls. She cites two statistics that she says should galvanize global action to improve the lives of girls: “More than 250 million of our 15-year-olds are already married … And every 10 minutes, somewhere in the world, an adolescent girl dies by violent means.” 

Photo©2014 World Vision, Eugene Lee

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