Misión México is a shelter based in Tapachula, Chiapas in Mexico that was founded in 2001 with the aim of providing a safe, stable, and loving home for children who have been abused, abandoned, or orphaned. Between 40 and 50 children are currently staying there, and throughout its more than a decade of existence Misión México has given a second chance to over 250 children in this region of Latin America.
To celebrate International Women’s Day, the Misión México team has offered us a small selection of its invaluable work, through the personal experiences of three young people who have been lucky enough to cross paths with the association. Here we present the experience of Katherine.
In the run up to International Women’s Day 2014, we at Mision México have decided to interview three exceptional young ladies from our family. This year’s theme is “Inspiring change” and these girls certainly do that! First up, Katherine.
I, Clare McBrien, was lucky enough to interview Katherine in early February. Now 22, she is an intelligent, articulate, passionate young lady studying to be a doctor. She enjoys playing basketball with her dad Alan, (when they play on the same team they always win) and her favourite singer is Shakira. She studies incredibly hard and has the world at her feet! Thanks to the bravery of her mothers (she has two) and her own determination, her life has seen a dramatic change.
Originally from El Salvador, the word she used most frequently to describe her experience there was nada or nothing. “There was no food, no school, no house, nothing. There everyone is very poor.” Her childhood was punctuated by experiences of an abusive father, prison-like refuges, sexual harassment and immigrating to Mexico with her mother where continues to fight to get a permanent residency. She moved into Mision México after running away from home and stayed there for five years where she thrived.
Now living with her biological family, I asked her what it meant to be a woman in Mexico. She told me it is “a way of life: an opportunity, a blessing and a challenge.” She believes women are “brave, strong, intelligent and loving”, qualities she has seen in both her mothers: Ana, her biological mother, and Pam, her mother at Mision México. “My mothers are my inspiration; they are two completely different women, both with very hard lives. They have shown me how to overcome difficulties. They cry, and then they get up and keep going.”
Katherine has had to learn this lesson quickly and has done so with remarkable tenacity. When speaking to her it quickly became clear that her life is based upon two core pillars: education and faith.
Very aware of how lucky she is to live in a country where women are “free”, Katherine studies six days a week from 6.30 until 11am and then works is in hospital from 12pm until 10pm. “I am really happy to do it,” she told me “it is great to feel that people trust me.” She learned the value of education from her mother Pam who told her to forget about boys until she had finished school. In fact, when asked how we can inspire change for the lives of women, it is education she turns to. “Ever since I was a little girl I have seen how intelligent girls are, then I see them fall in love, fall pregnant, and leave school. This has to change; they could have had a life full of success. Out of all the girls in my high school year, only five of us are still studying!” She firmly believes that “education is the most important thing to change the lives of women.”
The second thing that comes across is her faith; faith in God and faith in herself. “Believing is everything,” she told me when I asked her what advice she had for women and girls on International Women’s Day. “You have to have dreams, you have to follow your dreams, and you have to have faith in yourself. Life isn’t easy, there will always be difficult times, but if you believe you can do it then you will.”
Katherine is a young woman that encompasses this year’s International Women’s Day theme. She has overcome great difficulty and experienced profound change in her life thanks to two very special mentors, her belief in herself and her education. Two things that we need to ensure all young girls have access to, if they are to change the world.