23 Oct
  • By Theresa DeSouza
  • Cause in

The Heart of UPAVIM

Meet Dina

There is only one real reason why UPAVIM’s Montessori pre-school is so successful, our devoted teachers. One of these outstanding teachers is Dona Dina.

The first thing you will notice about Dina is the overwhelming motherliness she exuberates, you can not help but want to hug her, and she will hug you back! Dina fills the Montessori classroom with so much love and the children in the class reflect this. There is an absolute respect that she is granted from adults and children alike. Dina is one of the original members of UPAVIM and she has as much admiration for the organization today as she did 24 years ago. She has contributed greatly, and her achievements are remarkable, especially when you get to know the history behind this wonderful woman.
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Dina was born in a small village outside of Quetzaltenango. She had a younger brother and sister, but sadly her sister passed away at just six months. Her father left their family when Dina was 5 years old and she always felt a great responsibility for her mother and brother from a very early age. At 9 years old, after having only completed first and second grade, she was sent away from home to work for another family. Dina could not understand why she had to be away and ached to be with her mother. Although her employers treated her well she was not earning enough to support her family and soon went to work for a family who paid more. This time however, she was not lucky enough to find loving employers, and she was often beaten and starved. Dina tells us how during this time she would dream of one day becoming a teacher, as she would remember the kindness her teacher had shown her during her two years of schooling in her village.

[blockquote align=”left”]UPAVIM made me a different woman, it will always be in my heart, and the hearts of my children. [/blockquote]

Dina spent the next few years moving through employers; always looking after children, while she herself was no older than 13, and always sending the little she earned home to her mother and brother. She continued to work hard, moving as far away as she needed to in order to earn enough to support her family, but always returning home.

At 17 Dina met the father of her children, and they were married before she was 18. Unfortunately, not long into their marriage Dina suffered a miscarriage. She was devastated and to make matters even worse, her husband began beating her. She returned to live with her mother, but became depressed and felt the burden of the commitment she had made to her husband and went back to him. “I believed that was the life of a woman, to have children and to obey her husband, even if they are abusive.”

The couple went on to have healthy children, and Dina describes it as another chapter in her life; “Life was very difficult, but it was beautiful because I had my children.” Her husband did not take responsibility for his family, and they moved often due to a lack of rent money. After their sixth child was born they made the move to the capital, and came here to La Esperanza.

In 1988, Dina had seven children and was doing everything she could to support them, while her husband was still drinking and abusing her. It was then that she met Barbara who told her she would be returning to help the community and work with the women of La Esperanza. And so UPAVIM came into her life. Dina was eager to help her community. “I wanted to help and to lean any way I could.” She began by working in the clinic, right at the root of UPAVIM, in its earliest days. She could not read, but she believed it was important for her children to see how vital an education is, and to take it seriously. So Dina resumed her studies. She was in third grade at the same time as one of her children, and they did their homework together. It was always her dream for her children have a good education; “It was a beautiful thing when my older children passed though to sixth grade.”

Through working with other women, and helping her community, Dina was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel and for the first time she believed in herself and began to defend herself to her husband. She says, “UPAVIM made me a different woman, it will always be in my heart, and the hearts of my children.”
Her husband left when Dina’s youngest child was 18 months old and is no longer a part of their lives. Now when you go into Dina’s home all you can feel is love, and Dina is always at the center, surround by 8 children, and 18 grandchildren, including a newborn grandson.

The values she has imposed on them all are clearly visible; we are lucky enough to have her daughter Paula as our 1st grade teacher, and her daughter Patty teaches the other pre-school class. “I want my grandchildren to become professionals and be good examples in our community.” She is a testament to not letting life’s difficulties make you into a difficult person. She says she is more open with people now, “I want to tell people, yes you can do it, it can be done.” Dina has UPAVIM in her heart and she is truly in the heart of UPAVIM.