On my last trip home from Peru, my travel buddy asked, “What’s the first thing you’re going to eat when you get home?”
“Water,” I said. “I just want water. I want water.”
I got off the plane and drank water out of the water fountain, and then I got home and took a hot shower and later exercised and took another long shower. Then I drank water. And I took the kids swimming. In water. I just wanted water – because I could. Of all the creature comforts, that’s what I missed most.
These trips always put me in touch–acutely–with the freedoms I take for granted. Everything from being able to turn on the faucet and have reliably clean water come out to having the opportunity to build the life I want rather than just survive until the next meal. I don’t feel guilty about the freedoms I enjoy, but I do feel a deep, personal drive to use the abundant gift in service of others.
Step one: The fireworks.
It just so happens that this particular visit fell on Peruvian Independence Day. While countries celebrate the concept on many different days, they all mark a hard-earned freedom from an oppressive, seemingly-more-powerful nation. It made me think about what the whole idea of “freedom” means for these ladies. Each has fought hard to escape a very real, tangible oppressor with a name. But the first day of freedom is only the very first step. Just the beginning.
It’s invaluable. It’s so incredibly good. Every Independence Day earns its fireworks. And yet. It’s just the first step–the very beginning–of creating a new nation or a new life.
Step two: The real work begins.
Breaking away from an established government means leaving behind a foundation—however shaky or abusive or unfair—to face life on the rocky, twisty roads of uncertainty.
For our mamas, it’s not just the oppressor with a name and a face who keeps these ladies down. The entire system seems designed to keep poor, uneducated young women forever poor and uneducated. That means they get their education from life and grow up really quickly–becoming mothers before they’re ready–and often through violent circumstances. Then, adding insult to injury, they often have to rely on their aggressors for provision for their kids. If they do make it out, they’re often working 6-7 days a week for 12 hours at a time. And on the uncomfortable early days of facing the newness and unknownness of what’s ahead, there’s a comfort in the something that’s behind.
And so, we continue.
The work today and every day is to fight for freedom from the things that caused them to be in those oppressive relationships in the first place. We also fight for opportunity–so they can provide for themselves and their families. Because what good is the glamorous idea of a new government or a new life if you still can’t feed your family?
Step three through infinity: Build.
These mamas have fought and continued. And now, we must build. Yes, freedom is distance–both physical and mental–from the oppressive life you know you don’t want. It’s also the ability to build the one you do–on a new, solid foundation. It’s the simple joys that come with having some stability.
It’s sitting around a table with friends eating lasagna for the first time. It’s getting your very first pair of glasses.
For the first time, these mamas have people around them who love them and believe in them so much that they can dare to believe in themselves. And when your life is full of life and friendship and community, you don’t go running to fill it with something else. You’re already full.
And so we build. We build community and friendship and stability. With each call. With each park day. With each grocery run when the money has run out.
Build with us.
Become a monthly sponsor. Help Celestina find a new home far from the constant threats and intimidation from her past life. Support Erika as she works to give her teenage son Fernando access to a quality education and soccer program, two opportunities neither of them ever thought were possible. Contribute to Lucia’s education fund so that she can reach her childhood dream of becoming a flight attendant and provide for her family without worrying where her sons will get their next meal. Give Mariela the extra boost she needs to finish her accounting degree and show her young sons and sisters what it is possible.
With each gift, we show that we believe that the best thing we can do with the gift of our own freedom is sacrifice a little something for someone else’s.
Community Relations Director