The two Bolivian mothers cried, but for very different reasons.
Maclovia’s tears were ones of sadness as she relayed her life’s story. After her first husband died, leaving her with one son, Maclovia soon remarried and had four more children. But her second marriage was unhappy. Her new husband cared nothing for her first son – and often demanded that she not feed him. He also cared little for his wife and own children – physically abusing them and once forcing them to live on the streets.
At first she struggled hard to survive: “Sometimes we didn’t have a place to live; I had to sleep in parks and protect my kids from the cold with my own skirt. We had nothing,” she recalls. That’s when the staff of the local ChildFund program heard of the family’s plight and enrolled the youngest daughter in our programs. Maclovia became involved in our mother’s club, where she developed a network of support. But, most important, she developed the strength to stand up to her abusive husband and finally leave him.
With additional support from ChildFund, Maclovia and her children are gradually becoming more self-sufficient. “Now it’s not easy to pay rent, but I have a place to live and work—washing clothes and domestic chores. All my kids are going to school.”
Maclovia and I talk in her one-room, patched-together home, as the cold mountain air blows through the broken windows. Yet, thanks to ChildFund, she has warm blankets on the beds, her children are enrolled in our afterschool tutoring program, and the family has access to a nearby health center if they get sick.
Nevertheless, the pain of Maclovia’s life is clearly etched into her face and evident in her tear-filled eyes. Even sadder, the dull, listless eyes of her 10-year-old daughter speak volumes of the misery that one so young has already endured. ChildFund Bolivia and our partners are providing care and attention to help this young girl heal and move forward with her life.
On another home visit, I meet Albertina, whose eyes fill with tears of deep pride and appreciation. Albertina’s five children are thriving; two of them are already in college and the rest are preparing to follow the path to higher education. One of the older daughters, an engaging industrial engineering student, relays her family’s story to me.
The family has been involved in many ChildFund’s programs for well over a decade. For the daughter, the greatest value has come from the youth programs that encouraged her self-confidence and determination. For the soft-spoken mother, it’s the early years of ChildFund assistance that she remembers as lifesaving. With so many mouths to feed, she would walk all the children to the ChildFund center twice a day for meals. The children grew stronger.
Today, Albertina’s high-school-age daughter proudly describes her newfound financial independence made possible by her after-school job as a maid. She earns enough to pay for all her clothes and school supplies and doesn’t have to burden her mother and father. For parents who both left school after sixth grade, raising such educated and confident children has been no easy feat. The love within the family is palatable in the room.
By the way, that one room serves as the family home – all five children and parents live and sleep in one room, dominated by a large fridge that the older daughter won in a contest. Life is still financially hard for this family, but you can tell that these children are going to make it.
When I ask the older daughter if she thought her future children would be sponsored kids in our programs, she says. “No,” adding that they wouldn’t need support. Instead, she plans to be in a position to help her own and other children.
Two mothers, with different stories and different tears.
No organization or project can fill the irreplaceable role of the family in the life of a child. But when poverty or vulnerability makes this role too hard to manage alone, someone needs to be there to help. Every child deserves that much.