Friday, July 11, 2008


Reflections of the past Rosa has left behind

Life now seems better for Rosa's sons as they have gotten their mother back!

Putting a family back together in Mexico
By Scott Cotter

Rosa wanted to die…it was the only way she could forget. When the drugs and alcohol failed to block out the bad memories, she’d throw herself into traffic. Now, with help, she’s getting her life back.

Sometimes, to help a child, you must first help the parent…

Rosa was 11 when she took her first drink.

Mimicking behavior that had surrounded her entire childhood, she grabbed an unattended bottle of her father’s whiskey from the table and quickly gulped it down. It came with some rather immediate side effects…stumbling, falling down and vomiting.

Despite such a dire experience, three years later, at a time when most girls would be thinking about boys, clothes and music, alcohol became the starting point for a 14-year odyssey complete with drugs, huffing solvents, prostitution to earn food money, and three children born into the tempest of poverty, addiction and chaos.

“I wanted to die,” she recalls now with a clearer mind. “I would [jump] in front of cars so they would kill me.”

What she was doing, she laments, was trying to blot out the bitterly painful memories of a childhood spent in an abusive household where the only defining characteristics were violence, drunkenness and overwhelming poverty.

During the darkest times, she lived on the street where getting beaten, robbed or injured was just another night out. When she did see her children – who lived with her poor and aging mother – she provided them with little sustenance or support. And many times she would wake up in strange places, but with little idea of how she got there or what happened to her. Mostly, the memories in her head refused to fall silent.

“I just wanted to forget everything, but I didn’t,” she recalls sadly. “When I was drunk, I would remember more. Those things can’t be erased…not even when I’m dead.”
Another chance at life

Jump ahead 15 years. Rosa is fresh from rehab. Although the years she spent trying to hide from her memories left her scarred inside and out, the 29-year-old is trying hard to reclaim the things she once tried to leave behind.

She has a new perspective and a new commitment to being a good mother, daughter, sister and citizen. Her children, Adrían, José and Lupita, once plucked from the street by Children International, are now healthy, in school and receiving all the support and love they need (Lupita, her youngest, still lives with Rosa’s mother in another town).

Rosa is grateful for Children International’s help in turning her life around, helping her find a rehab facility where she was able to get clean, and giving her children the health and dental care, clothing and shoes, educational assistance and nutritional aid they so desperately needed. It’s another chance, she says, precipitated by our compassionate staff in Guadalajara, Mexico, who understood that the only true way to help Rosa’s children was to help her.

“Children are strongly influenced by their immediate environment,” explains Neeta Goel, program director for Children International, “especially their families, which are their first learning environment. An insecure or threatening environment affects the child’s perceptions and emotions significantly.”

In many cases, improvements to a child’s environment are equally as important as providing the traditional benefits of sponsorship. That’s why Children International will often help with home repairs, community water wells, latrines and other projects. Or by addressing specific family needs such as helping with income-generating projects, nutrition education for mothers, vocational and literacy training for parents as well as emergency aid after disasters.

“What we hope to achieve,” continues Neeta, “is a more secure and happy environment for the child. This would not happen if they have a troubled family background or were growing up without their parents.”

Looking back, moving forward

With Rosa back in the picture and working at the local market earning a few pesos a day, the family’s prospects are looking much better. Her children are doing well and, some days, Rosa even finds her smile.

Still, when it’s quiet, and when the children aren’t around, the old pain and regret surface and cast a shadow that’s hard to ignore. She may be better, but the life she led for all those years took a toll. Rosa looks much older than she is; the trials and tribulations of her experiences are evident in every scar and wrinkle.

But she admits that, with the support of so many caring people and the sponsorship of her children, life is easier and getting better all the time. Her children have opportunities she never did. And now, finally, she can focus on righting some of the wrongs that came before.

Special thanks to Alejandro Bonilla in Guadalajara for reporting assistance and photography for this story.

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