How do you know we make a difference? In addition to our proven impact of school success, English language acquisition, and parent education, many of you have helped family emergencies as well. Sometimes you have donated gently used furniture, household goods or clothing after a house fire or other circumstances. I offer you the story of our most recent family in crisis below as an example of Christmas Hope.
I stood near my car at the far end of a run-down trailer park in Phoenix. In front of me was a young mother of 31, who was about five feet tall, beautifully brown and with long black hair. She wore a long sleeved shirt and a floor length skirt. She had just told me how she hoped her three-year-old daughter, Sandra, could re-start at A Stepping Stone preschool after the winter holiday. Sandra had been showing such signs of improvement! She no longer cried when the mother left, she was making friends and learning how to get along in the group.
I saw three-year-old Sandra and a younger sibling playing at the yard fence. They were carefully toeing into the low chain link fence and making little jumps to the ground.
“How many children do you have?” I asked.
“Six. Most of them attend a charter school nearby.”
I was in awe for just a moment how this young mother of six could stand before me explaining clear goals and dreams for her family while, from my perspective, all hell was breaking loose.
A few days before, lead teacher Janet emailed me because she had received word that one of her families had not been attending our program because she was about to be evicted from her home. I was able to speak briefly with the mother, Alicia, just before the eviction and could not get help to her soon enough to make a difference. We agreed to reconnect after she moved in with her sister.
When the Alicia called me back a few days later, she explained they had settled in with her sister but that she had left her husband. He was not offering enough support. I agreed to bring by grocery gift cards so she could provide food and sundries for her family until local social services could catch up with her move.
When I arrived at the trailer park, I gave her the certificates (thank you Christmas Angel program) and gave her a gentle hug. That’s when I began gathering the details.
Alicia, as is the case of many immigrants, was brought to this country as a child without documentation. She had attended school sporadically and wished she could speak English better. It was interesting to me that when she spoke to me in English—about half the time—while some words failed her, she had almost no accent! What was difficult for her, she explained, was the writing.
But Alicia had goals. She wanted to get her GED and then apply for deferred action status. She could apply now but she didn’t have the money to begin the process. I gave her the names of a couple of organizations I thought might be able to help. She went on to say what she needed most was a job so she could get a place of her own. She had left her husband when she moved in with her sister because she felt he was not giving her the support she needed to move forward with her life.
I often tell our families that we are the ones who draw strength from them. I draw strength from their vision, their hope and their tenacity. I certainly drew hope from Alicia’s inner strength and tenacity.
Thanks to you all, A Stepping Stone was able to help this family a little during Christmas time and more importantly, continues to offer a way for the children to have an increased chance for school success and the a way for their parents to improve their lives through education.
May the peace of the season live in your heart today and throughout the New Year.