Dec. 16--Imagine being a parent and having to decide between risking your life by staying in a conflict or leaving behind everything in search for safety.
Maria and her family faced just that decision, as gang violence, threats from extortionists, dire hunger and poverty forced them to leave their homeland.
Fourteen years ago, Maria and her husband were working in New York when they became homesick and traveled to Guatemala to visit relatives. Last year Maria's husband died suddenly from an aneurysm and life in Guatemala became difficult.
Desperate, with no means of support, suffering from near starvation and wanting to protect her two older children from gangs, Maria decided to flee her country with two of her children, a 13-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old son, and seek employment in the United States.
They began their perilous journey through Mexico last month, which, according to Maria, included being "kidnapped and held for ransom by the drug cartel."
After crossing the border, Maria and her children were detained for 12 days in an immigration facility with only the clothes on their back. After documentation procedures were finalized their dream of a safe haven, warm food, a shower and clean clothing was realized as they arrived at La Posada Providencia in San Benito.
"Our clients are fleeing from violent gangs who threaten their lives and the takeover of their homes. They abandon families, friends and everything they love and know to seek refuge in the United States," Sister Zita Telkamp, La Posada program director, said.
Founded in 1989 by the Sisters of Divine Providence, La Posada offers shelter for immigrants, asylum seekers and asylees recently processed by U.S. immigration authorities. The shelter provides clients with safe shelter, food, local transportation and supportive services including English as a Second Language /life skills to achieve self-sufficiency and make their transition to American life much easier.
The shelter recently marked its milestone, serving 7,000 clients in about 25 years, as Central American families flee increasing violence.
"In 2012, the shelter served 332 clients; last month alone we served 207 people," Zita said.
Over the years, clients have represented more than 70 countries
in Central and South America, Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.
Making sure that there's enough shelter and services available is a daily challenge. La Posada depends on donations from individuals, organizations, private foundations and grants. The shelter does not receive any government assistance.
La Posada is seeking monetary donations to purchase diapers, hygiene items and new underclothing. New sweaters and jackets for children and women (size small) are always welcome.
"Our clients have individual needs," Telkamp said. "Monetary donations help us tremendously to meet their specific needs."
(c)2013 Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas)
Visit Valley Morning Star (Harlingen, Texas) at www.valleymorningstar.com
Distributed by MCT Information Services
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