Colombian mother learns to read and write at 50
September 30, 2013
For some mothers, watching their children leave for the first day of school can produce anxiety and a bit of sadness. But for many mothers of sponsored children, this is a day of promise, hope and pride.
Blanca made the decision to go back to school because she knew
learning to read and write would change her family’s life for the better.
Because of poverty, or responsibilities at home, many of these mothers sat over cooking fires instead of at school desks. A formal education was all too often out of reach.
Blanca, 50, is one such mother.
When Blanca was a child, her father passed away and her mother went to work as a house maid.
Her mother’s income, however, wasn’t enough to provide for the family’s needs.
As one of 15 children, Blanca didn’t attend school. Instead, she stayed home and helped care for her younger siblings.
Blanca learned how to care for a family, but she never learned to read or write.
Years later, she began caring for her own children, one of whom is sponsored through CFCA. Blanca started going to the mothers group meetings as part of the Hope for a Family program.
“I was attending the mothers groups meetings and I was not feeling comfortable because sometimes we needed to sign papers, write or read, and I did not know how to do that,” Blanca said.
Blanca’s desire to improve herself was apparent, and the other mothers in her group and the CFCA staff encouraged Blanca to go back to school.
Big decisions, though, are rarely made without having to overcome fears.
Blanca practices her writing on a dry-erase board.
Going back to school at age 50 was intimidating, and Blanca’s husband was not supportive of the decision, as he thought his wife’s age would work against her. But Blanca knew it was a change that would make a difference in her life and her family’s life.
“I said to myself, ‘I know education will bring me the chance to get ahead in life and to help in the mothers groups meetings with my knowledge,’” she said.
Learning to read and write wasn’t just for Blanca’s personal self-improvement.
“The economy is built by and for people who are literate, so illiteracy is marginalizing,” said Jose Rodriguez, CFCA-Kansas project director for Colombia. “It makes a huge difference when families have access to a program in which they can develop that skill (literacy). It also enables them to support their own children’s education.”
Blanca began attending school on Saturday mornings, and quickly learned to read and write. The mothers in her group helped her with her homework and encouraged her. They were a supportive resource, a cheerleading section, as Blanca pursued her dreams.
“This speaks to the potential and purpose of the mothers groups,” Rodriguez said.
“The mothers groups give mothers a space in society where they can pursue their own goals and dreams. It allows them to care for themselves, so that they can care for their families.
Blanca can now sign papers in her mothers group meetings, read, write
and perform basic math.
“That will mean different things for different mothers. For some, it might mean starting their own livelihood project using their talents and skills. For another mother, it might be linking up to a literacy program. That’s how Hope for a Family is more than just a benefit distribution program. We engage the family and help them participate in activities that will contribute to the family’s overall development.”
Through mothers groups, moms are able to realize their potential and create better lives for themselves and their children.
One Colombian mothers group, for example, started a soap manufacturing business, earning extra money by working together. Other families teamed up to turn a vacant lot into a small farm, supplementing their diets while also supplementing their incomes.
For Blanca, the mothers group helped her overcome decades of insecurity and illiteracy.
“I feel proud of myself because now I can read and write well,” Blanca said. “My son congratulates me because now I can help him do his homework, and we study together.”