Stories of Change
Rosa, Lucia and Alex
The Remarkable Power of a Mother’s Love
*WARNING: This story mentions violence and sexual abuse.*
How far would you go to protect your child or those you love the most? For Rosa, who traveled from Honduras to the U.S. to save her youngest children, the answer is as far as it takes.
For the majority of their lives, Rosa and her children were at peace in Honduras. Rosa spent most of her days working in the city where she and her friend owned a small grocery store. After she was done with her work, she came home to the countryside where she recalls that the bountiful fruits and plants and the flowing river provided her with constant joy and tranquility. “At home, I was with all my children and my happiness was in being with them”, Rosa shared.
Unfortunately, this peace was disrupted when Rosa’s brother came to live with the family. “I gave him a home because he didn’t have anything”, Rosa told us. Soon after moving in, Rosa’s brother began drinking and became violent. When her brother would come home after drinking, Rosa would escape out the back door with her children to a friend’s house where they would stay for the night. Eventually, the violence became unbearable and unavoidable so Rosa reported her brother to the police. Shockingly, Rosa’s family turned against her for denouncing her brother. Her in-laws took her teenage daughter to live with them and left her with her two little ones. Despite her countless reports to the police, Rosa’s brother remained free and continued to threaten Rosa and her youngest children.
With nowhere left to go, and no one to help, Rosa took off with 6-year-old Lucia and 11-year-old Alex to Mexico. Rosa’s heart was shattered as she was forced to leave behind her adult children, teenage daughter, loved ones, home, belongings and everything else she had ever known. Despite the devastating sadness she felt from being separated from her other children, Rosa pushed forward because Lucia and Alex depended on her to survive. There was no looking back.
In Mexico, the family was supported by a church that provided them with food and shelter. This, however, was a temporary solution and Rosa’s goal was to reach her sister in the U.S. After a few months, they moved into a different shelter that was closer to the U.S. border. Unbeknownst to the family, this specific shelter was a place where they would discover new and terrifying dangers.
Unlike official shelters that provide safety and support, this shelter was run by a human trafficker who kept the residents captive and forced them into labor. “They kept us locked up and under surveillance. We weren’t allowed to talk. Many of us single women were abused and because we wanted to protect our children, we did whatever they asked us to,” Rosa said. She wanted to escape but her captor told Rosa that if she attempted to escape, he would harm the pastor who had been supporting her.
Ultimately, Rosa devised a plan to save her children. She wrote a letter explaining her situation and she and five other mothers from the shelter went to the border where they handed over their children to immigration officials. To avoid suspicion, the women returned to the shelter and waited until their children were safe in the United States.
That night, Rosa was contacted by her pastor who told her he would help her escape. When she reminded him of the threats, he told her, “I am not afraid” and took Rosa to a different church where she remained hidden for two months. During these long and difficult months, Rosa wrote countless letters to an immigration lawyer who was eventually able to get Rosa permission to enter the United States. Three more grueling months later, Rosa was reunited with Lucia and Alex.
“God called on the Angels to reunite me with my children,” Rosa said. The reunion was joyful, but the family still had many barriers to overcome. After reuniting with her sister, Rosa realized that her sister’s husband posed the same threats that her brother did in Honduras, so she left.
After many months between shelters and temporary residences in the U.S., Rosa and her children were connected to Church World Service. “Here I met my case manager,” Rosa said with a big smile on her face as she leaned over to hug her case manager who sat next to her. “It was like meeting an angel because CWS allowed me to open my eyes and open my wings to fly in a different way. I was able to trust people again. Before I couldn’t trust anyone. This is the greatest help.” Rosa began to get emotional as she talked about her case manager. She remembered that her case manager always told her, “You can do this. You will move forward.” and told us, “This helped me regain my own self-confidence”.
Rosa and her case manager recalled that when they arrived, Lucia and Alex were very different. Lucia refused to speak and both were very shy. Now they are both confident and constantly stand up for one another. Rosa shared that most recently when Alex was getting bullied in school for not having U.S. documents, Lucia went straight to a teacher to report the incident. (Both children recently received legal status and Alex has proudly shared this news with his classmates). Rosa also shared that Alex constantly takes care of her and anytime it rains, he greets her with an umbrella at the bus stop so that he can walk her home. She stated, “My children love and respect me in the same way I love and respect them.”
Rosa dreams of the day she can be reunited with the rest of her children, especially her teenage daughter who misses her mom greatly. While she waits for this day, she is thankful for her safe home, case manager, job, and the smiles that have reappeared on Alex and Lucia’s faces. Against all odds and after many many miles, Rosa has achieved the impossible. Not only has she saved Lucia and Alex multiple times from immense danger, but she has raised them into kind individuals who have a deep love and respect for their mom.
To support families like Rosa’s and learn more about our Children Services Program, click here.
*Note: pseudonyms have been used to protect the identity of the individuals in this story