Reasons to Smile

It’s been a whirlwind of a month but we’re finally settling in to our new place. It is WAY bigger than our old home so the first thing we had to do was put little gates on the doors so the little ones don’t get lost. But we’re getting into the rhythm of it and it’s feeling homey already. Now that we have a huge outdoor space for playing soccer, it’s a lot harder to send the kids home at the end of the day!

The other great thing about more space is more opportunities for working with our Casita moms. Eight of our moms are participating in literacy class three nights a week – and what a change we’ve seen in them already! All of our Casita moms can now write their own names. This may not seem like a big deal, but imagine being in your twenties or thirties and not being able to sign an employment contract or a permission slip for your child to go on a school field trip. This is life-changing stuff. Now when we sit down for a mom’s meeting and pass around the attendance sheet, instead of seeing blushing faces, we see fourteen women confidently signing their own name. Needless to say, we are so proud of their progress!!

Early this year we also started a women’s group focused on life-skills, parenting, and self-esteem. We meet with our Casita moms twice a month to discuss any and all issues related to being a woman and being a mother. We’ve discussed health and nutrition, birth control, the cycle of violence, sexual abuse, how to communicate with your child, how to build trust in a relationship, and more. Classes are conducted by our psychologist Daysi with the support of our two staff teachers, Suyapa and Iliana.


Our biggest focus right now is self-esteem. In order to get our moms to care about what happens in their lives and in their children’s lives, first they need to care about themselves. This is not an easy feat. Self-esteem is something that people from all economic and social backgrounds all around the world struggle with. But as Daysi told the moms, we have to start somewhere.

Daysi started the lesson by asking each woman to hug every other woman in the room. It was awkward at first (as you might imagine) but after a few minutes of giggling and “pena” (shyness), everyone was hugging and then smiling. Then Daysi asked each woman to think about the person that mattered most in her life. Most said their children, some their mother or sisters. Then Daysi asked everyone to line up near a corner of the woman where she had taped a white sheet. She then told the moms that she would show them who is the person that REALLY matters most. Each mom took a turn walking behind the sheet where Daysi had placed (yes you might have guessed it) a mirror.


After more giggling and some “Si, es cierto” (“It’s true”), we started talking more about how we can take care of ourselves and love ourselves a little more. Daysi gave the moms two pieces of advice as a place to start. She asked them to find a little more affection in their lives, more hugs from their children and their friends, and also to smile. We all – staff, moms, and Daysi – are going to try to follow this advice and see how it works out. The hugs should be easy – our Casita kids give about a thousand hugs a day. Now we just have to smile! The good thing is we have plenty of reasons to smile.