Stories of Change

Letter from Antonio and Miguel. Translation: “Greetings and blessings for your life. May God continue to bless you. I am very thankful for the program and all of you that helped us. Thank you for the economic support that you gave us. Along with my family and nephew, we are thankful. This is a major help for us. Thank you. We have received the thousand-dollar check that you sent to us. Thank you, many blessings.”

“They Remembered Us”

Around 10 p.m. on a chilly December night in Mayfield, Kentucky, 16-year-old Miguel’s phone began to go off. The words “TORNADO WARNING” lit up on his screen as loud alarms rang from his phone. Soon, the electricity and water went out and Miguel could hear the loud winds and rain outdoors. Miguel, who recently came to the United States from Guatemala without his immediate family, thought to himself, “what do I do?” His uncle Antonio told us, “we weren’t prepared. It was a surprise,” and added that they didn’t think about seeking refuge in a safe place in their home.

Eventually, the alarms on the family’s phones stopped but were quickly replaced by dozens of text messages from friends and family asking if they were okay. Luckily, they were safe.

The next morning, as soon as the sun came out, Miguel and his uncle walked outside their home to find an entirely different town than the one they knew. “We saw that a powerful tornado had passed through and destroyed many houses,” Miguel told us. He added, “stores were destroyed and cars had flipped over.”

With no electricity, no food and no water, Antonio stayed home with his family. He added that he has a one-year-old daughter, which made him especially nervous to leave. While this decision cost him his job, he remarked, “how could I leave my family when there was no water and no heat?” Instead, Antonio dedicated his time to waiting in long lines to receive food donations and looking for opportunities to get help.

Antonio considered applying for assistance from the government but had heard from his Spanish-speaking friends and neighbors that the application required specific documentation that many immigrant families have not yet received. At the time, Antonio wasn’t aware that his U.S. born daughter would qualify him and his family for relief assistance. Fortunately, the family soon received a call from Gaby Acree, who works at Miguel’s school as the Migrant Education Program Coordinator. She and her assistant Carmen Alvarez told the family about CWS and the services they could receive. Miguel shared that through CWS, they received financial assistance, information about community resources and education on how to access those resources, free legal support and information about other community resources. He said, “[Without CWS] things would have been different. We wouldn’t have support. I am thankful for CWS’ help.”

Through this program, Miguel and his family are slowly rediscovering stability and normalcy. Antonio is working again and is supporting Miguel and the rest of his family so that they can have a better future. Miguel, who loves his math class at school, has dreams about what his future could look like in the United States. “I would really like to become an engineer or a lawyer,” he shared. Antonio also has big hopes for his nephew and commented, “he has a lot of plans and he has a future ahead of him. He wants to have a good future. He wants to study, he wants to learn. This is difficult for him to achieve in Guatemala, where we don’t have enough money for food, never mind school. ”

Miguel and his family are part of the large community of indigenous Guatemalans in Mayfield. Their recovery is not only important for their own future but for the future of Mayfield, whose economy relies heavily on the work done by its Latino population. In a letter written to CWS, Antonio wrote, “thank you for the economic support that you gave us. Along with my family and nephew, we are thankful. This is a major help for us. Thank you.” 

Like Antonio, Miguel also expressed his gratitude and said, “I want to thank CWS because they helped us. They remembered us.” Here at CWS, we are actively working to make sure families like Miguel’s family are not forgotten. By providing attention and care to unaccompanied minors and their families, we aim to be there for them in all phases of their journey.

Note: Pseudonyms have been used in this story to protect the identity of our clients

We are grateful for our valued partners, Brother’s Brother Foundation and Church of the Brethren, for their support in our Kentucky response. Their kind generosity has allowed this project to be possible.