A Matriarch Discusses Her Family’s Struggles and Triumphs

February is Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month, so we spoke with the mother of a family that has participated in our Fuerza Unida Amig@s program, and she told us how it impacted her husband, teenage daughters, and herself as a mother. The original interview was conducted in Spanish by Esperanza United’s marketing intern, Deborah Contreras. The mother has asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the information shared.

What made you join Esperanza United?

[Ivette Izea-Martinez, Co-Director of Family Advocacy and Community Engagement] offered us camps for young women and one of my girls was having low self-esteem issues. I realized that those camps would be able to help her a lot, so I registered her for Esperanza United’s workshops (camps).  

Do your girls still attend Esperanza United’s camps?

Yes, I have three daughters, and they have attended them the past two summers.

What was your experience with the workshops and camps like?

Well, I have liked them a lot. [Esperanza United] also organized mother-daughter retreats, and I’ve also participated in those, too. I like the programs because they involve the whole family; it started with my daughter attending the workshops, then the mother-daughter retreats which included me. They also have workshops for men, so my husband started participating in those, and he has attended them on three different occasions. This helps me a lot, too, because in a marriage, there are always some issues and topics that as a wife it might be hard to talk about with one’s partner as they might take it the wrong way, but in the workshops for men, they talk about how we as Latin@s are raised and the idea that men are the sole decision makers in the home. Thanks to the workshops about toxic masculinity, my husband has begun changing his mind when it comes to issues of that kind and how he approaches things now.

Would you say that group discussions and activities have helped your family communicate better?

Yes, I am very grateful because thanks to the workshops, my daughters now have the idea that we need to be leaders in our community. If I, as their mother, would have instilled these ideas in them, they’d listen but it wouldn’t have as much of an impact as when they go to these workshops and other people tell them the importance – it helps their self-esteem. I have really liked these events because they include a lot of different topics. Esperanza United was created for women who have survived domestic violence, but the staff are also conscientious that in a marriage, even if your spouse has never laid a hand on you, there are things that make you feel bad and words that hurt you. With the workshops that Esperanza United offers, people can learn how to treat their children and raise their self-esteem – even if things at school are not going well, they teach you how to help them and tell them, “You can do it!” My family has learned all these things through Esperanza United and other resources in our community.

Are there any goals you have achieved as a result of these workshops?

Yes, many times, I had personal achievements with my oldest daughter. She had a lot of anxiety when she was in eighth grade (middle school), but when she started participating in [Esperanza United’s youth program, Fuerza Unida Amig@s], that helped her a lot, thank God. Last year, my daughter didn’t have a lot of anxiety, which is very different from when she was in eighth grade and she used to cut herself. That’s why we took her and enrolled her in Esperanza United’s workshops. I also sent her to see therapists, once I discovered that she was self-harming, but those workshops really helped her. Participating in those workshops and camps really helped her realize that the problems she thought she had were not that big, and by sharing with other young girls her age, she realized that everybody has difficult situations in life; it might be that a boy you like doesn’t notice you or your parents are fighting and suddenly you think the world is coming to an end. Often, young people focus only on their problems and imagine they are bigger than what they actually are. But when she went to the workshops and saw other young people with the same issues who are still not giving up, that helped her. My daughter is really thankful to Esperanza United.

If you could give some advice to someone who is in a situation similar yours before you contacted Esperanza United, what would you tell them?

I would tell them that we should always look for available resources in our community and that we should not be afraid or embarrassed [to use those resources] because in life, there’s no telling what’s going to happen. There is no shame in asking for help because you think someone is going to judge you or criticize you, because everybody has difficult moments in life and you are not alone, but you need to be open to look and receive help.

Thank you!

My pleasure. […] Hopefully, our story might help other people, so they can find the help they need and they know that with Esperanza United they have found a good ally that will always be there for them. I would like to thank Esperanza United for the great work they do, because I know many of them are volunteers. [Advocates] don’t know how much the time they take to volunteer or do their job impacts other people impact. They give so much so that other people can move on with their lives. Thank you so much!