Sometimes, the worst prisons aren’t of brick and mortar with a dragon at the gate. They’re the ones in our minds, but the dragons are just as scary. They’re the voices that say you are incapable and unworthy. When you believe them, you are imprisoned already–no chains necessary.
For Elena, the prison is the caste system that said that because she was from a poor mountain village, she was less important. That because she was less literate, she was less bright. And that because she was a woman, she was just plain less.
Elena, you see, is from a small, poor village high up in the Andes outside of Cusco. She is one of 11 children. Her parents are wonderful and loving. They are also poor and illiterate. Elena left the village seeking an education. Instead, she found a man.
That man, with his stable job and solid income, promised a home to live in and enough food to eat. Little by little, the man who became her husband isolated her, accused her of cheating, and threatened her life. She justified staying because her kids ate each meal and because he never touched them. Only her. Isn’t that part of the prison, too? That the kids are worth protecting and fighting for, but she is not?
One night, she locked herself in her room as her husband screamed at her from the other side. She fainted in fear and woke up to her husband dragging her through the house by her feet.
By finally fleeing, with an unknown course ahead, Elena is slaying her dragons. She ended up at the shelter and reunited with her family. Once she began learning about her rights and her worth, she found a fight within herself to stand up against the intimidation of her ex-husband. She even started saving to start a business, but her ex-husband stole the money.
Nevertheless, she persisted.
Now, with her two young children, she is starting to dream again and believe. Not just for their future, but for hers. If you want to see what gratitude looks like, watch Elena. When Rosabel went to look for an apartment, Elena joined. She watches Mariela’s kids every night so she can go to night school. She goes 45 minutes out of her way on the bus to help clean our headquarters.
She also loves volleyball and her face always seems ready to break into a warm smile. Her feet are planted on the Nuevo Camino and she is so thankful for the help along her path.