Hope arrives at the most perfect time – quite often it is the outcome of perseverance during troubled and challenging circumstances. For immigrant families, this hope is the only thing that keeps them moving forward. They leave their country, home, family, friends, familiarity, and identity for various reasons. When asked why they decided to migrate to another country they will say that it was not their want but their need that drove them to that decision. Out of necessity a family is uprooted and thus begins a challenging journey that can only be explained as, “one of the hardest journeys in their life”.
Allow me to share the story of one such family. El Salvador is a small country in Central America, with the Pacific Ocean to the South, tropical weather, volcano's, amazing food, and very loving people. In the 80’s, this beautiful country was full of turmoil and civil unrest. It was experiencing a civil war that left many dead, commerce came to a standstill and educators were often a target of attacks and persecution (along with religious leaders, peacekeepers and innocent bystanders). This was the situation in which a young family of five found themselves. The father was a Director of Science in small town college, the mother was a Housewife and owner/operator of a seamstress academy. They were part of the community for many years with many generations of family members. As a result of persecution and anxiety the family had to make a decision that would change the course of their life forever, to live free from the dangers of possibly being killed the father decided that their best option was to uproot the family, sell everything (home, cars, belongings) within two years and move north to the United States of America. The move was filled with all the drama you find in movies about immigrants – this young family (three children ages 8, 10, and 12) had to travel through 3 countries to make it to the U.S. They had to start over, working multiple jobs, going to school, learning a new language, learning new laws, and adapting to new food. In addition, they had to navigate through this new world of housing, social services, immigration, driving, bus systems, and banking system while keeping the children distracted during their cries because they missed their old home, country, friends, and identity. Needless to say, it was tough – but, the alternative (staying in El Salvador) was far worse because it could mean death for the father.
The good news is that all along the way, this family was supported and helped by family members and individuals that cared enough to love them and see them through this difficult time. The family remembers meeting another family (perfect strangers) that were part of a church. This church family opened their home to the immigrant family and taught them about the American culture, played with the children and cooked homemade meals for them. For a short but important time the church family adopted the immigrant family and served as their interpreters, assisted in areas of education and social services, tutoring, housing, and most importantly they were friends that provided a place of hope. The youngest child recalls eating his first tuna sandwich during that time spent with the church family. They played monopoly at night and on sunny afternoons they would play on the backyard swings. Life was normal for the immigrant family and little by little they were no longer strangers in this new country but at home because they were building relationships that would serve as a foundation for their future. It was so much of an impact that to this day the youngest child remembers that church family with utmost gratitude and appreciation. I am that child, it was because of Alicia Sarullo and her family that my two older sisters and I found hope and courage to face the uncertain future ahead of us. Today we are all naturalized citizens with families of our own and we count our blessings for the sacrifice my parents had to endure in making their journey to the United States.
I was reflecting on this very story when I met Carolyn Fichtner and Glenda Johnston and the organization they were helping and supporting, Esperanza House. Their mission is to improve the quality of life for Hispanic children and families. Esperanza House desires to intentionally develop and implement programs that meet the needs of low-income Hispanic families and their children in such critical areas as mental health, youth development, childcare, education, immigrant services and advocacy. They work to find affordable housing for the families. They connect them to a network of resources in our community. Their goal is to develop leaders from these students and their families where they can grow and reach their potential and sustain their community. Their hope is to help them find healthy churches and community where they can move from just surviving to thriving!
Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
Feed the hungry, and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
The LORD will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden, like an ever-flowing spring.
Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls and a restorer of homes.
Isaiah 58:9 – 12 New Living Translation
On any given day in Auburn, Esperanza House, is living out their mission and helping to shape the lives of individuals that will become contributing citizens in our communities. Organizations like theirs are so important. They matter, they make an impact, they bring hope, they are a light that shines on a hill…
- Serving 30 families (including 1 Rwandan and 1 Muslim family) and approximately 75 Hispanic children and 7 Asian children.
- 2 ESL teachers serve daily
- 1 local school communicates with Esperanza House on a weekly basis
- Services include taking the children to get their shots at the health department, tutoring (AU provides at least 25 mentors), housing, and collecting clothes for the families.
- Churches that currently support the effort of Esperanza House include Lakeview, Cornerstone and Auburn Community Church.
To learn more about Esperanza House, their upcoming events and ways to support their cause please reach out to to Eddie Orantes or contact Esperanza House at firstname.lastname@example.org
Contributed by Eddie Orantes.