Stories of Change
Ruth sits inside CWS office in Miami
Ruth’s Courageous Leap of Faith
Note before reading: This story includes references to pervasive sexual harassment
In many parts of the world, being a girl is a dangerous thing. Despite being minors, girls can experience constant sexual harassment that makes it impossible for them to live normal lives. Government corruption, gang violence and widespread poverty only worsen the situation for women in some countries. This was the case for Ruth, a 17-year-old who lived in the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa.
“Life as a woman in Honduras is rough. You get harassed a lot. Wherever you go, you’ll experience a lot of harassment. You can’t even go out on the streets without getting catcalled by men,” Ruth told us. She explained that the harassment was so pervasive in Tegucigalpa that her mother wouldn’t even let her and her sister go out to get groceries. “You don’t feel safe,” she explained.
To make matters worse, Ruth’s family was being targeted by gang members that were trying to take over a house that her sister owned. The criminals would harass the family often and try to scare them into abandoning the home. Eventually, determined to give her daughters and grandchildren a better life, Ruth’s mother decided that they would leave Honduras.
Ruth, her mother, her sister and her sister’s young children all crossed into Guatemala and eventually into Mexico. The family resided in Juarez where, unfortunately, they still could not rest. “It was similar to Honduras, we were afraid to go out. I didn’t even like going out with my mom because I was afraid,” Ruth said.“I carried something heavy in my heart, trauma maybe, I don’t know.” Ruth’s past experiences in Honduras and the lack of safety in Juarez made her feel paralyzed. Regardless, she had no option left but to move forward.
After some time in Juarez, the family decided it was time to cross the border into the United States. In their first attempt to cross, only Ruth’s sister was allowed to pass since she had small children with her. Her sister made it to El Paso, where she began working and sending money to Ruth and her mother for food while they resided in Juarez.
Ruth and her mother eventually gathered their strength and decided it was time to try again. This time, however, when they got to the border, the guard told them only one of them could cross. For Ruth’s mother, the decision was clear. She told Ruth, “you go first. I’m afraid of the risks we are running here. If I have to go back to Honduras then I will go back, it doesn’t matter what happens to me.” Despite being a young girl who had never been separated from her mom, Ruth courageously took a leap of faith and crossed the border.
Ruth was received by some family members in Arizona, and her mother stayed in Mexico for another month before finally crossing the border and arriving in El Paso. This separation was difficult for Ruth who shared, “I had never been separated from [my mom], so I felt horrible.”
Finally, after seven months of being apart, Ruth and her mother reunited in Miami. Here, they were finally able to breathe. “When I arrived here I felt so much better, I felt so much peace,” said Ruth. While she was nervous at first, Ruth began to dip her toes into the water and accommodate herself to life in Miami. She explains that she started off with baby steps by going outside in the backyard of her home. Eventually, she felt safer, and when she went to school she “saw how different things were here, it wasn’t like Honduras I felt safe,” she remarked.
At school, Ruth was connected to CWS by a teacher and given a case manager. “Now, I have someone I can count on,” she said. “Whenever I talk with my case manager on the phone or Zoom, it really helps me because it gives me additional support and makes me feel better because I realize I’m only starting to settle since I’ve only been here a year.” Regardless of having arrived recently in Miami, Ruth is already beginning to imagine what her life can become here. She told us she dreams of becoming a lawyer and is currently studying to get her GED.
CWS is working hard to ensure Ruth can follow her dreams and that she never feels alone again. Ruth shared, “these programs really help because [people seeking asylums] come from a bad situation, a dangerous country. [They] come from discrimination, harassment and a bad life. When you arrive here and you find people and programs like this one, you feel better because you feel supported. I feel that I have more people here, other than my mom.” Through vocational training, social services support and one-on-one case management, CWS is helping Ruth make Miami a place she feels safe and can call home.