I am not a mom, but I’ve often imagined what it would be like. In none of my fantasies did I account for the array of problems that so many moms in Copán face: an absent father of the child, no system of child support, a family that is too poor to provide food or even shelter, no steady job opportunities, limited education or illiteracy, and being a teenager.
When we started Casita Copán, our focus was primarily on the children. But I am learning that the challenges the children face are permanently intertwined with the daily struggles of their mothers. If we really want to make an impact on the lives of vulnerable children in our community, we need to focus a substantial amount of our energy on their mothers – the same women who not too long ago were vulnerable girls themselves.
At our 2nd moms meeting last week, we asked our Casita Copán moms to share something positive and negative about being a single mom. Suyapa, Casita Copán’s head teacher (and mother of 2), runs all our moms meetings while I take on the role of observer. I was surprised to learn that nearly all of the women were happy to be moms. They didn’t blame their children’s existence, but rather dwelled on the difficulties of the world around them – lack of jobs, no husband, and not enough money to make ends meet. The mothers of older children, especially girls, were most worried about their children repeating their path. One mom commented on how grateful she was for our program because “my girls are pretty. And what can I do? The only thing I can do is lock them in the house to keep them safe.”
Our Casita Copán moms come from a variety of backgrounds, but they share many commonalities: most had their first child between the ages of 14 and 18, all work in the service industry (cleaning in homes or businesses, doing laundry, making tortillas, etc.), 7 out of 9 cannot read or write, and most have no relationship at all with the father of their children. Another similarity I noticed was the low self-esteem that many of our moms showed. Even in the comfort of a room full of women, most spoke quietly, avoided eye-contact, and tried to dodge questions with nervous laughter (luckily Suyapa is persistent!).
Many of our moms are young and still have plenty of time left to turn their lives around. But the obstacles they face are enormous. Our challenge as an organization is to figure out ways that we can meaningfully support the Casita Copán moms, not by giving hand-outs but by implementing programs that can foster independence, self-esteem, and self-sufficiency.
Have ideas? Want to find out how you can be a part of Casita Copán. Please contact us. We would love to hear from you!