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
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