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"A long time ago, I thought God was in the sky. Now, I know that God is here with me." Behind those words spoken softly by 38-year old Yolanda, lies a tortuous journey to freedom through the killing fields of El Salvador and the mountains of Mexico. On foot for the entire journey, she waded across the Rio Grande in the fall of 1986 and a few months later in Austin gave birth to her second child. She left behind in El Salvador her parents, a baby girl to whom she had given birth at age 17, and the memories of a nightmare childhood. "I saw too much when I was young," she says with sad resignation as if her words were some kind of cross she was still required to carry.

Her years in Austin brought with them two failed marriages and three more children. Life was hard, sometimes almost beyond enduring, but she struggled on finding employment when she could and solace whenever it arrived unexpectedly. Then, one day she met Father Jaime Case at El Buen Samaritano Health Center, and with his help her life began to change. During long conversations with him, she began to confront the deeply rooted feelings of shame and regret that weighted heavily on her. She also began to meet regularly with an El Buen Samaritano social worker who encouraged her to begin to develop her latent talents.

With new self-assurance and eager to get on with her life, Yolanda is now taking interior design courses and studying for her citizenship examination. She has also been trained by El Buen Samaritano to be a health promotora and is now working in some of Austin's poorest neighborhoods to link people with health and education resources while teaching them the rudimentary skills of problem solving. With her now characteristic smile, she says, "You know, God can knock on your door, but you need to open it. I've learned that." Indeed, she has.

Located in Austin, El Buen Samaritano Health Center is regularly funded
St. Luke's Episcopal Health Charities





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