The Long Road to Casa de Pastor
Why is it that the thing we most need is often what we would never dream of asking for?We found her and her family in a small cardboard hut on borrowed property in Baja California, Mexico. Just another casualty of the statistics: caught in an endless cycle of lack, frustration, and marginalization. They were workers from Oaxaca, a state of southern Mexico. Oaxaca is both blessed and cursed: It is culturally diverse, full of beauty and indigenous people groups, yet 76% of the population lives below the poverty level, earning only a few dollars a day. As a result, over 150,000 Oaxacans migrate to northern Mexico and the U.S. each year. Maria and her family are a part of those numbers.To be Oaxacan in Baja California means to be thousands of kilometres from home, relegated to day labour in the fields of the Baja as an internal migrant worker, and to be always at a disadvantage in the society in which you live. To be in Maria’s shoes would be extremely difficult. When our Hero Holiday staff met her family, they described the living conditions as ‘beyond deplorable’: children without clothes, the only bathroom was a tire out front, and worst of all, their family had a secret that wasn’t as unknown as they thought.Our staff wanted to build them a house, and yet kept coming up against barriers. Maria’s family had already overstayed their welcome in the tiny community they were barely surviving in. Money and provision that had been given them in the past had been sabotaged by her husband, and instead of providing for the family went straight to his addictions. Maria and her children were trapped: unwanted in the community and unsafe in their own home. Andrew and Dawn, members of our Hero Holiday team, offered to bring Maria to a safe house for mothers and children that are trapped in abuse. Reluctantly and in fear, she agreed to come with them in a couple of days.The next day, Andrew and Dawn returned to find an abandoned cardboard hut. Maria was gone. Her husband had discovered her plan and forced her and her children to leave immediately with him. The search for rescue began – too much was at stake. When they finally found Maria, her husband had once again abandoned them in another cardboard hut, only this time their only source of food was the local garbage dump. They were filthy, sick, and hungry. Now Maria was ready to do whatever it would take. As our staff began to explain to them about Casa de Pastor, the women’s shelter that they wanted to bring them too, the little family got anxious. Maria had already had one son taken from her, and there was no way they were going to be separated again. But she knew they could not do this on their own: they needed to reach out and take the hand offered to them.
It’s a long drive to Casa de Pastor, and when you are fearful of what you will come to, the ride can be excruciating. Maria has spent her life growing accustomed to disappointment. Life has been one long, endless string of work, pain, fear and poverty. But when they arrived at Casa de Pastor, hope arrived with them.They were shown their new room with 5 clean beds, they had the relief of knowing there would be three meals a day provided, and reliable and safe daycare while Maria is out in the fields working. Casa de Pastor has given Maria the opportunity to learn new skills, to be self-sufficient, and learn how to provide for her family in a safe way. In the future, as they are able to live on their own, we are committed to building them a new house.One day, not so long ago, Maria’s deepest wish was granted: Andrew and Dawn brought her to be reunited with her son. He is currently in an orphanage where he is being educated and being provided for, and Maria now has access to visiting him and being a part of his life again. Their reunion was intimate and heartwarming. Maria’s mind could now be at peace.In Andrew’s own words, his journey into Maria’s life has been one of insight:I was going to tell her that she was going to be blessed with a house, but at this time that wasn’t the best for her. Sometimes we think we have all the answers: a house, a car, other material possessions, but when you really spend the time and look into someone’s life there is a lot more that is needed. In this case it was learning some new skills just to cope with being a mom and the bread winner for her family, which she has never done before. This story with Maria is not over. There are many new things to come. A house, a piece of land, maybe a reunited family that can stay healthy, happy and have a hope for the future.The cycle of abuse is a deep wound in every culture and economic level. Women stay in abusive relationships for many reasons, most of them motivated by fear for their children. Poverty only magnifies the problems and limits the solutions. For Maria, one small act of kindness on Andrew and Dawn’s part helped to give an entire family a future they could have only dreamed of before they met them. This story is our tribute to Andrew, Dawn, and all the other people in the world like them: people of compassion, kindness, and the willingness to reach out a hand to those who need it most. Never underestimate the power of your own life.
“Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can read.” ~ Mark Twain
This summer, Hero Holiday is going to be working in Mexico with many families such as Maria’s. We would love to have you join us. You can make a difference -you can be a part of change! To find out more about Hero Holiday, how to get involved, or how to become a member of our Hero Network, go to www.livedifferent.com