Note: Since this letter was written, Nora has graduated from high school and started studying at University.

Everything started when my parents got together. They lived in Zone 18 [of Guatemala City] with my grandmother and my uncles, who lived lives full of luxury because they belonged to gangs. But their lives were not calm. My family depended on my grandmother for money, who worked selling tin and bottles, and I was also born with a deformity and have had to have many expensive surgeries throughout my life.

My parents didn’t know what to do with me when I was born deformed. They immediately took me to a surgeon and they had to operate for me to breathe.  My mom did not accept me at first and left me with my maternal grandmother, Elsa, and my uncles, who took care of me for the first year of my life. They fed me with a syringe because that was the only way I could eat. Eventually my mom accepted my deformation and I lived again with her and my two little sisters.

For a little while after that, everything seemed to be going well, until one day we discovered that the gangs had killed my Uncle. My uncle was shot 8 times and my family was devastated. He was my mother’s favorite brother.  Time passed and my other uncles wanted revenge for my uncle’s murder. I remember that I was 4 years old when the gang killed a second uncle because he clashed with them. My mom had 7 siblings but now only 5 were left – and one fled to the USA, so only 4 remained in Guatemala.

My mom was looking for work and started working in a nightclub with her brothers selling drugs. My mom did not want to, but she needed to make money. She eventually got a different job, but the salary was not enough for all my medical expenses and our bills. My dad helped, but it was not enough. There were days that my family did not have enough money to get anything to eat.  One day my mom talked with my dad about fleeing to the USA for a better life. He and I did not pay much attention to it, but one day we woke up and my mom had left for the USA in a red car.

After she left, my dad stopped taking care of me and my sisters, and my mom left us very little money, so we went to live with a friend of my grandmother. We worked together to sell cans and bottles, but we made very little. One day my grandmother’s friend made the decision to sell drugs. It was necessary to give us a roof, but when my mom found out she called from the USA and tried to make us leave. I told her to leave us alone. But my grandmother’s friend was arrested. There was no one in charge of us.  We spent a month alone until an uncle came and took us in. I was 9 or 10 years old.

Things were a little better with my uncle, but he took the money that my mom sent us to drink alcohol and gave us nothing. My sisters and I were starving, but we couldn’t tell our mother because our uncle said that he would stop taking care of us if we did. The only good thing was that my little sister and I were still in school, and my older sister took care of us. It was around this time, too, that International Samaritan found us. They helped us have enough food to not starve, and paid for us to stay in school. My little sister and I were able to stay in school past 6th grade because of International Samaritan.

My uncle did not like that we would study. He told us that our obligation was to clean, wash his clothes, and make dinner, not to get good grades. He never congratulated us for doing well in school.  He would get angry and drunk on weekends, too, so our neighbors never liked us – we would move often and would have to start in a new school and make new friends. I did not like it.  Some of the kids would make fun of me and I became lonely. But I kept studying so my parents and International Samaritan would be proud of me.

There are still months that I do not have the money to eat. When I’m hungry, I think about how I’ll never go hungry in the future. I want to be a professional. I’m going to get good grades and be someone very important.

I’m studying Computers and Graphic Design. I like to study. I strive, day by day, and I have goals and dreams that, with the help of God, I will reach. With my discipline, effort, and responsibility, I will graduate from high school, study at the University, and get my career. I know I will get far. I will be successful and work to help others. International Samaritan came to my life in an inexplicable way, and they are helping me and supporting me in this path of success that has no end. I want to be the change in my family and be a person of change for Guatemala.

A Garbage Dump in Galilee?

If there were a garbage dump in Galilee 2,000 years ago, I’m confident that Jesus would have gone to it.  If you want to know what that would look like in today’s world, please watch the video below.  It captures Esther Muhia, the leader of our freshly-established...

Why’d They Do That?

Children growing up in the Riverton area, located near Jamaica’s capital of Kingston, have the double whammy of being poor and the stigma of living and working near a garbage dump. I grew up in Riverton, too. My own dad never had the opportunity to finish primary...

The Hero in My Story

One of the best of many gifts my parents gave me is my middle name, Francis, after my dad’s best friend, Francis Canfield, S.J.  Fr. Frank ran the table on the Sacraments with me. He baptized me, gave me First Communion, sponsored me at Confirmation (where I also took...