Our Community is Under Attack
Each of the UPAVIMas pictured here has lost a son or daughter to gang violence. We must find a way to stop the violence before we lose any more of our own. Click here to donate now and help fund programs that help keep our children off the streets.
The Power of Esperanza (Hope)
by Laura Armstrong and Courtney Cline
Life in Esperanza is full of the ups and downs that characterize life anywhere, but the dichotomy between joys and sorrows can be very intense and sometimes all too palpable. The beautiful colors, the conversations shared over cups of coffee, the sound of children’s laughter, and the collective force of a group of empowered women working together make Esperanza and UPAVIM an inspirational and joyful place to live and work. With all of these punto buenos, it can be easy to forget that we live in a “Red Zone,” situated in the middle of tumultuous gang territory. But when the reminders of violence come, they are strong and painful.
One of our most cherished UPAVIMas tragically lost her son this month in an act of violence that shook the community. At just twenty-four years, he was taken from her much too early, and now she and her daughters are left trying to go on without him. The same shooting that took his life sent six other men to the hospital. A young boy of 15 years passed while being treated, – tragically a nephew of the same UPAVIMa – while some of the other men are in grave condition, fighting to find the money to fight for their life.
Sadly, this is not an unusual event in the lives of the families of Esperanza – and these are not unusual losses and struggles for the UPAVIMas. Many of our UPAVIMas are women who have suffered great losses to the hands of gang violence. These shape their daily lives – the loss of a husband or partner, brothers, sisters, uncles and aunts, cousins, parents and always most tragic of all is the loss of their own children.
Violence is a disturbing part of everyday reality here. For the past decade, gang activity has controlled and dictated so many aspects of life for the people in La Esperanza – taking away community spaces, extorting families’ incomes, and keeping kids indoors. Children’s precious, innocent childhoods are robbed from them when they see someone being shot, when they lose their big brother or when they have to flee their life to escape the violence. People often remark that their lives were better off twenty years ago, in the early days of La Esperanza, before the roads, electricity and running water. . . before the gangs. Those problems of poverty and malnourishment are preferable to today’s pain caused by gangs, threats and murders.
In recent times, the organization of the gangs and level of violence has spiked, making fear more palpable. Being the next person to be extorted and forced to flee, losing a loved one, and protecting your children from the violence are all the tangible fears in the lives of our UPAVIMas. Gang activity is increasing at an alarming rate, with multiple murders per week in our small part of the country alone. At times, with the present fears in La Esperanza, the future can feel heavy and bleak. But, just as the name of this community means hope, esperanza is still alive in the hearts of the women and children in this small but brave community.
Nothing can heal the heart of a mother who is grieving for her child, but for the women of La Esperanza, UPAVIM offers a place of sanctuary. It is a space for them to be with their sisters and friends, the women of their community who give them love, hope, strength and purpose. They take shelter in the supportive arms of women who personally understand the pain and loss, and take solace knowing their kids are safe within these walls. For the children in our community, UPAVIM’s full day school and Reforz tutoring programs have the power to contradict the attraction to gang violence by keeping kids off the street.
UPAVIM was here long before the gangs made Esperanza and the wider Villa Nueva part of their territory. And while the violence is heavy on our hearts and minds, UPAVIM will continue to be here, a positive force and rock of strength that will serve this special, beautiful community – staying united to fight for a better life.
Our hearts are with the families of the recently departed, and we ask you to keep them in yours.
How You Can Help
UPAVIM is a refuge for the women and children of La Esperanza. It provides a safe place for the women and children to spend their days, off the streets and away from the violence. There are many ways you can help the women and children of UPAVIM.
1. Make a Donation
For just $45 you can send one child to school for one year as well as help UPAVIM provide an afterschool tutoring program. Our goal is to send 450 children to school this year – 225 elementary and 225 middle school.
Want to do more? Please consider making a recurring donation to UPAVIM. You can earmark your donation for the Reforzamiento or any one of UPAVIM’s other programs.
2. Purchase Crafts
Your Fair Trade gift & crafts’ purchases directly support community educational and medical programs. We invite you to take a look around our website and enjoy the beauty of the crafts these women/artisans have created. Please know that every purchase makes a difference and greatly enhances the quality of life for these women, their families and their community through the numerous programs, schools & services run by UPAVIM. When you empower women, you grow a community.
Shop Now: www.upavimcrafts.org
3. Share the message
Anything you share will help us raise awareness for the women and children of UPAVIM.
4. Host a Sale in your Community
Please consider hosting a consignment sale at your home, church, school, work or organization.
As a volunteer consignee, you can choose to receive 15% of your total sales for your organization or you can choose to return all sale proceeds to create an even greater impact for our women artisans of UPAVIM! http://www.upavimcrafts.org/hosting-sales
5. Shop Amazon Smile
Select UPAVIM as your charity of choice on Amazon Smile and 0.5% of your purchase will be donated to the UPAVIM Community Development Foundation (UCDF.)