Everything about her life has been uncertain from childhood. She was born of an alcoholic single mother and her early years were spent moving from orphanage to orphanage. At 18, she was turned out onto the streets of Honduras to fend for herself. Stability is something she has longed for and hunger has been a constant in her life. On the streets, trust is hard won and everyone is out for their own survival.
Escarleth was the epitome of a street kid when she walked into the Mi Esperanza center to begin her basic jewelry training,. She had a very tough exterior and rarely smiled. I wasn't even really sure it had been her idea to come for this week of one on one training. But I launched into working with her and she took to it immediately. Unlike other things in her life, this was something she was good at.
Sometimes, in the course of teaching, you come across a person who just “get’s it”. Escarleth gets it. Her fingers are nimble, she has a great eye for color, and she can do just about anything I show her how to do with relative ease. And when she struggles, she perseveres until she figures it out.
When she first started coming to train with me, Escarleth chose to work alone, outside the jewelry studio. She said she didn’t really like being around other people. She maintained her distance and kept her head down. I remember when she finished her first piece of jewelry, I wanted to take her picture with it on. Naturally, I asked her to smile for the picture. That smile transformed her - and it almost reached her eyes.
As I have continued teaching her, those smiles are more frequent and she is blossoming in front of my eyes. I have watched her move from that solitary place of working alone to sitting with the other women who areeither learning a new skill or working for Mi Esperanza using the skills they learned with us. There is an ease about her interactions with them that is wonderful to see. Escarleth belongs here. She is welcomed and accepted.
In my years of working with Mi Esperanza , the thing I love most is watching women blossom with the confidence that accompanies a new skill. It is like a light comes on inside of them and they see themselves as valuable - often for the first time. I have seen that light come on inside of Escarleth. She walks taller, interacts with the others with ease and she smiles. And when she smiles - it now reaches her eyes - and you cannot help but smile with her.