Empowerment International May Newsletter

Tenacity and grit served up with a smile! We hope you enjoy reading Perla’s story. Her positivity in the face of great osbtacles and can-do attitude has always filled us with awe and admiration. She embodies the strength of so many incredible ladies in our lives. Thanks Moms – today and everyday! 

Tenacity and grit served up with a smile

As we passed by Perla’s house, she gregariously invited us in with a kind smile. Those of us she had never met were greeted like old friends. A welcoming hostess, she set out the three chairs she had so that we visitors could take a seat, while she remained standing, in her well swept and clean courtyard. Perla is warm and chatty; she exudes happiness. And, as you listen to her tell the very challenging circumstances of her life, you can’t help but be moved by her humility, ambition and optimism.

Perla’s story is particularly unique. A single mother of five children: Ericka (13), Alexandra (12), Reyna (8), Jose (7), and Jerison (5), she is also an Empowerment International (EI) tutoring recipient. At the age of 22, ten years ago, she made the decision to go back to school. A challenging feat for any parent juggling child rearing, working, and caring for a home. But for Perla, who began living on the streets at age 10, going back to school meant starting from where she left off: beginning in grade 3.

Growing up, Perla received much physical and emotional abuse from her mother. Fed up, she ran away from her mother’s home to live with her father only to discover he was an alcoholic. “It was better to be with him because at least I did not receive physical abuse.” However, at 11 years old she decided to leave her father’s house to live on the streets.

“I spent all my youth living on the streets. There are no words to describe the harsh reality of living on the streets.” She slept outside, was often hungry, cold and wet from the heavy rains during Nicaragua’s rainy season. She would go to the “mercado” (Nicaraguan street market) to beg for money for food. She drank and used drugs.

At 19, she became pregnant with her first child. The baby’s father, a vendor of respados (a Nicaraguan treat similar to snow cones), made just enough money to support them. He was also abusive. Despite this, Perla moved into his mother’s house to give her the stable home she needed to change her life. She stopped drinking, quit drugs, and found work washing and ironing clothes for people in the neighborhood. Perla and the baby’s father separated but Perla, serendipitously, inherited her mother’s house thus keeping her and the baby off the streets.

Returning to her old neighborhood was hard. The neighbors criticized her and spoke ill of her for her time on the streets and her drug and alcohol use. Their words weighed on her but, luckily, she discovered EI. “EI’s support has been life changing for me.”

Perla credits EI as the motivation for her to grow. At 22, when she went back to school, she didn’t know how to read or write. Today, in her third year of secondary school, Perla is an inspiration to her children. She dreams of attending university to study psychology. She’s an integral member of her church and she speaks to alcoholics and drug addicts to offer her support that they, too, can turn their lives around. She works hard, has diversified her skill set, and provides for her family.

She points out that she does get a lot more help now. Her oldest is 13 and helps out a lot around the house, and all the children are expected to help clean. Her sister cares for the children while she is out working and often prepares dinner for all of them. Perla says “she is as valuable as my right hand”. She says EI has always been there for her, “even in my hardest moments.” She speaks about a significant period of depression she suffered, during which EI intervened and sent her to a psychologist. She was overwhelmed: caring for the kids, working, studying, and taking care of the house had taken its toll and she felt it would never get better. The psychologist taught her how to handle her negative emotions and also helped Perla organize her time and determine where to put her energy. Perla indicates that this experience revolutionized her energy levels and made her realize she could achieve her dreams.

And organized her days are! Perla’s days begin at 5:30 am. She wakes up, has some time for prayer and then prepares breakfast and gets the children ready for school. At 7:30 am, she goes to sewing class. By 10:30 am, she is in the market buying supplies for her job: to make and sell fried plantains with cabbage salad. From 11 am until 1 pm she is cutting, frying, and preparing her wares to sell on the streets of Granada. Her afternoons are spent working, while her kids are at EI’s Learning and Activities Center. In the evenings she spends time with her children, checks to make sure their homework is done, puts them to bed, then does her own homework and studying. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, she goes to her secondary school classes at 6 pm.
Perla’s happy and stoic demeanor only cracks once, as she describes some of the toughest days she has had. “When I didn’t make enough money, it was really sad to see my children only eat once a day and to have to choose between having food or paying my electric bill. Of course I chose food. It was hard to have to cut off electrical service, but it’s what had to be done.” She then shows her ability to turn around negative emotions by adding “I’m lucky I can earn money to support my family now.”

This Mother’s Day we salute the tenacity, grit, positivity, and strength of the amazing women in our lives, like Perla, who inspire us. Thank you to all you moms, grandmas, aunts, cousins, and strong women who shape young minds and us to be our best self, today and every day!

Meet Alexandra
Alexandra de los Angeles, Perla’s 12-year-old daughter, is not yet sponsored. Click below to sign up to sponsor her!
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Our mailing address is:

Empowerment International

PO Box 3158

Boulder, CO 80307

One Comment

  1. Cebu Tours

    May 21, 2017 at 7:54 pm

    Hello Nicaragua Commuinity! Great Article! You visit Philippines too.
    And speaking of Philippines, you try Bohol or Cebu.
    It’s so nice there. If you need help.
    Just check out our website at https://www.cebutours.ph/. Thank you!