About three months ago when we officially launched our Women’s Program, we started by interviewing each of our Casita Copán moms. The interview was a tool to design our program to meet the needs and interests of the moms we serve, and it turned into an opportunity to really get to know the individual stories that shape their lives.
The interview focused on family, relationships, housing, food and nutrition, health, self-esteem, friendship, children, gender, violence, education, dreams, and hopes for the future. When Iliana, the director of our Women’s Program, finished an interview, she was overwhelmed and awed by the depth of each woman’s story but also their bravery in the face of a life full of challenges. We are currently shaping next year’s workshops around the issues that matter most to our moms.
We learned that despite many challenges, all of our moms remain hopeful about the future. Most feel trapped in their current situation because they make barely enough money to survive. But the reality is that jobs as maids or domestic helpers are the only types of jobs available to women without a formal education. Many of our moms harbor dreams of one day owning their own business. Part of this dream stems from the desire for economic independence but another part for independence in and of itself. The ability to dictate your own life, to make your own rules, to enjoy the fruits of your own labor.
Another common dream repeated throughout the interviews was the dream of owning a little piece of land and a little house of their own. None of our moms own their home, which means they spend more than half of their monthly salary on rent for a single room or apartment. The stress of wondering when the landlord will raise the rent or if he’ll find a new tenant or if you lose your job and can’t pay the month’s rent is enough to overwhelm anyone, but imagine that stress for a single mother. Many describe a feeling of helplessness and constant fear.
From these interviews, we also learned about a material concern for all of our families – beds. The majority of our families only have one bed for the entire family to sleep on (as many as 5 people), others just have scraps of mattresses on the floor, and one family sleeps on a borrowed bed that could be taken by the landlord at any moment. Many of our families have children that are approaching adolescence and so room in the bed is starting to get tight. I feel that the least that these women deserve after a grueling schedule of working is a comfortable place to sleep.
So this Christmas, we decided to take on this challenge. We are hoping to collect enough resources to build a new bed for each family – that’s 14 beds for 14 families. What better gift is there than a well-deserved night’s sleep? We are also going one step further to make each house a little brighter. With the kids, we’ve developed a plan – to paint the inside of each family’s house or apartment. The family will choose the color together and the kids will help paint as a gift to their mom for all she does.
Yes, it’s an ambitious plan, but for those of you who know how we are at Casita Copán, I’m sure you’re not surprised. If you’re interested in helping, please contact us! We’d love to hear your ideas. You can also check out our Christmas wishes here to find out how you can help.