Meet Marie, a university student at NPH El Salvador who survived a difficult path before she arrived at Casa Sagrada Familia. She now looks forward to the festive holiday season. December 15, 2020 - El Salvador
Marie loves Christmas time for many reasons, receiving gifts being one of them. Here she shows off her Christmas artwork.
Christmas is a special season for many people around the world. This year Christmas will be filled with different feelings and memories after a difficult year caused by COVID-19, which has impacted everyone worldwide.
Despite the situation, NPH El Salvador is making this Christmas as enjoyable as possible for the children, filling the season with the usual festive activities such as posadas, breaking open piñatas, and receiving gifts, as well as a delicious dinner, so that the NPH El Salvador family can spend quality time together and rejoice like other families around the globe.
Marie* especially enjoys the season. Although she is 20 years old, she considers herself a big kid. She is currently in her first year at the University of El Salvador, where she studies public accounting. After initially moving into the NPH student university home Casa Guadalupe in Santa Ana, 52 kilometers from the main NPH El Salvador home, she has since moved back to Casa Sagrada Familia with the other university students due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I really love Christmas. It is a moment to give and receive love, especially at NPH. My favorite part is Christmas Eve Mass. I thank God for what I have, so celebrating the birth of Jesus is very special for me. I also love the posadas. And I have to be honest; I also love receiving gifts!” laughs Marie.
Marie entered NPH El Salvador when she was 13. She recalls celebrating Christmas differently when she lived with her mother and grandparents. “We used to share dinner and spend time talking as a family. Maybe it was simple, but it was all we could afford.”
Marie had a difficult start in life. Her father abandoned her mother and her when she was a baby. She grew up with her mother in a small town called Ojo de Agua in Texistepeque, where her grandparents also lived, just 10 kilometers from Casa Sagrada Familia. She loved spending time with her grandparents, but when Marie turned 11, her mother decided move to Sonsonate some 78 kilometers away and Marie had to say goodbye to everything she knew.
The province of Sonsonate sits on El Salvador’s Pacific coast and is famous for its agriculture. When they arrived in the main town of Sonsonate, however, neither of them quite anticipated how dangerous it would be; gangs had taken over the neighborhoods. It was extremely hard for both of them; they had never faced problems like this. Fortunately, nothing happened to them, but they struggled to survive. Since Marie’s mother was born deaf, she had difficulties communicating which made it hard to find a stable job.
Marie remembers how her mother would leave her alone at home the entire day as she went out to earn money to put food on the table, then returned at night.
“I felt so scared and lonely,” Marie remembers. “I did not know what to do, so one day I ran away. The police soon found me and took me to the authorities.”
The judge dealing with Marie’s case determined that her mother was not able to provide for her and Marie was sent to a state-run facility for girls. “I remember being so scared because I didn’t know what was going to happen to me. It was a new environment and lots of different people who I didn’t know. I was used to having family and friends, and then I had no one.”
After two years of living at the home, the judge in charge of the case felt that NPH El Salvador would better suit Marie, based on her quiet personality and the proximity to her hometown, Ojos de Agua.
“Again, I had to adapt, which was difficult because I am shy. It was a bit easier though, because the caregivers supported me and I could see there were more smiles, thanks to the positive environment at Casa Sagrada Familia,” explains Marie.
In time, Marie realized that NPH El Salvador provided everything that she needed to reach her personal goals and accomplish her dreams, especially her desire to continue her studies. It was also another fresh start, which turns out to have been a positive one, after many ups and downs. The NPH family helped change the way Marie viewed life, giving her the platform to mature, as well as learn that giving up is not an option. She is very grateful for the many things she has received at NPH, especially healthcare and education, things she once considered a luxury.
Marie was also part of the Renacer program (‘rebirth’ in English) which had a big impact on her career choice. The program helps at-risk youth living in homes like NPH to learn new professional skills. Even though the program ended last year, she enjoyed what she learned.
“I developed new professional skills, which helped my confidence and ability to perform tasks that some of my fellow students at university might not have. When it is my time to find work, I will have skills that will support me in the long-term. I feel empowered,” she says proudly.
Nonetheless, Marie finds her accounting degree program demanding, but her way of thinking is “if you study and work hard, you are able to achieve your goals.” If all goes well, she will graduate in 2025.
“I have always been good at mathematics and solving problems. One day, I would like to become a business administrator, as I know I have the right skills, which I wouldn’t have realized had it not been for NPH.”
The pandemic has meant that Marie has had to adapt to long-distance learning and now attends classes online, “which is a challenge after having classes in a traditional classroom all my life. There are things I still don’t understand. But if I were not part of the NPH family, I would probably have abandoned my studies by now due to the economic situation caused by the pandemic.”
From time to time, Marie returns to Ojos de Agua with the NPH El Salvador social work team to visit her mother, sister, nieces, and nephew, who receive support during these difficult times. “NPH El Salvador has given me a new family, but my own family is still very close to my heart. I like to go back to see them, but the quarantine conditions we live under right now makes visiting them complicated. I strive to support them, though. This is a personal objective of mine. And with support from NPH, I am on course to achieving this.”
Marie is a sweet, smart girl with dreams for the future. “My main hope is for this pandemic to end so that I can continue studying at university and so that I can visit and spend time with my family.”
Part of the great effort done at NPH is to motivate young students, like Marie, to continue pursuing their goals so that they reach their potential and play a positive role in society.
*Name changed to protect the young person’s privacy.
Are you able to support a student like Marie* this Christmas? Please donate to NPH El Salvador by visiting nph.org. Make a difference.
Carmina Salazar Communications Officer
You may be only one person in the world, but you may be all the world to one child.
—Fr. William Wasson