At just 12 years old, Javier Alejandro Portillo Paz has already won four medals for his swimming skills. But, he is just getting started. "My dream is to be a champion," he says. His eyes are set on the ultimate swimming competition -- the Olympics.
Javier shouldn't even be swimming, let alone winning medals. "When he was little, he suffered a lot from Bronchitis," remembers 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 close to a community pool and in a community surrounded by rivers, Javier was not a strong swimmer as a child. Thanks to a swimming program, initiated by World Vision El Salvador, Javier and 36 other children in community 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," remembers Javier. But, for those kids who stuck with swimming not only do they have style, they have speed. "Now it is different. We are children that know how to swim as sports people do on television," says Javier
Thanks to sponsorship, Javier and the other children in the swimming program are able to focus their energy and find their identity in the water and stay away from other, more negative and violent influences that permeate the El Salvadorian country.
Javier, for one, only thinks about swimming. He goes to school. 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 want to be instructor to teach other children because swimming or any other sport makes us to think healthy. I feel that being here and swimming helps me not to think in idleness or going out with people who will [not] do any good to my life," he says.
Without sponsorship and the support of World Vision in his community, Javier would not have been able to learn to be such a good swimmer. He likely would not have been able to be on a swim team at all. His mother does what she can to provide for Javier, her two older daughters and grandchild but with limited income opportunities, what she is able to earn through agriculture during the rainy season is not enough to sustain the family's basic needs, let alone luxuries, such as swimming.
In her spare time, Idalia dedicates her time to helping her community improve. She is a very active leader in her community, supporting school reinforcement circles where the children can learn more about different educative themes after school, mainly mathematics and reading. She is also a guide mother of a circle of good health and nutrition, where boys and girls less than five years old with nutrition problems are attended.
Despite the economic difficulties in his family Javier does not give up hope 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.