Girl, 8, aids moms in Guatemala

For her seventh birthday, Liberty Sementelli didn’t ask her party guests for dolls or toys or clothes. Instead she asked each to donate $10 to help her buy a chocolate grinding machine.

Liberty, a third-grader at Prairie Creek Elementary in Andover, spent the past year raising $1,500 to buy the machine for the Good Samaritan mothers, who make chocolate for a living in Choacorral, Guatemala.

"My mom went to Guatemala to visit one of the girls she sponsored,” Liberty said. “She met the mothers group and told me all about it.

"I decided I wanted to help the chocolate ladies so we contacted CFCA (Christian Foundation for Children and Aging) and they told us what they needed."

For a year after her birthday party in May 2009, Liberty worked to raise money to meet her $1,500 goal.

"I did jobs around the house and helped neighbors by watering plants and helped with a party by ironing napkins and tablecloths," Liberty said.

Before Liberty’s donation, the mothers group in Guatemala had to make a trip to the city to rent a grinder, lugging their cocoa beans with them. Getting to and from the city took at least an hour each way. The women would then have to stay until the product was finished, which took all day.

"Liberty’s contribution was an inspiration to the group," said Claudia Stapley, who works in sponsor services at the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging. "Her help in obtaining the mill gave them hope.

"Part of the goal for donations like this is self-sufficiency — to help families rely less on sponsorship benefits and create a path out of poverty."

This summer, Liberty had the opportunity to see the product of her work when she traveled to Guatemala in July with her mother.

"It was amazing seeing them use the machine,” Liberty said. “Feeling the hot cocoa beans was my favorite."

One of the foundation’s main purposes is sponsorship of children and the elderly. Liberty’s family sponsors two sisters and an elderly woman. For each person, they donate $30 a month, which provides money for schooling and life’s necessities.

Christine Sementelli, Liberty’s mother, first came in contact with the foundation when representatives visited her church six years ago.

"I became interested because they don’t just offer handouts, they offer opportunities for education and work," Sementelli said.

At least 25 percent of people living in Latin America live on $2 a day, Stapley said. The people helped by the foundation live in extreme poverty.

Liberty said her work is not done with the foundation. She said she hopes to recruit more people who will sponsor others like her family does.

"God has blessed us and we’d like to share what we have with others," Liberty said.