Carol (right) says Mission staff like Champa House Director Yolanda (left), have been instrumental in helping her learn and grow.
"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy." - Proverbs 31:8-9 (NIV)
In 2015, Carol moved to Denver with her four children to live with a troubled friend. She thought she could help, but she started seeing problems after only a month. “She sent me 40 to 50 texts a day,” she exclaims, “constantly checking where I was."
One day, Carol returned from the store to discover all her clothes and the children’s clothes were torn to pieces along with all their shoes and other belongings. “She thought I left her …. She even tore up the kids’ birth certificates and social security cards, and my ID was ruined,” she says in disbelief. “Everything was destroyed.”
Carol didn’t know how to stand up for herself. “I would just break down and shut down,” she says.
Out of options, they moved into a two-bedroom apartment with five other family members. When the lease expired, Carol and her kids had nowhere to go.
Her life wasn’t always such a whirlwind. She was born in California, grew up in Denver and her parents owned a successful restaurant.
But when she was a teenager, things started to unravel. A year after her parents divorced, she became pregnant with her first child at 16 years old. She later met the man who would become the father of her other children, but he turned out to be controlling and abusive. Despite the abuse, Carol kept going back to him for three years until her mother called Child Protective Services, and they took away her kids.
Carol was devastated and angry, but her kids were returned when she finally left their father three months later. They moved from place to place and she refused to talk to her mother for the next five years.
But in 2012, Carol ended up stuck in Juarez, Mexico—a city known for its violent crime—after a friend asked her for help moving there. On her way back, the border guards assumed she was trying to smuggle her daughter into the States. “They had a lot of really big guns … and Andrea got nervous, so she started crying,” she explains. “They said she wasn’t my daughter. I had her birth certificate, but they wouldn’t allow us to cross the border.”
After three months, she finally called her mother for help, and they were living with her in Maryland within a week. Unfortunately, tensions soon increased between her and her mother. “My kids would say they didn’t have to listen to me because their grandmother said I was a bad mom,” she explains. “I got tired of that.”
As a result, she moved back to Denver in 2015, only to have her belongings destroyed and end up without a home again. “I was so far away from God at that point,” she says.
That’s when someone told her about Champa House at Denver Rescue Mission.
For the first time, she prayed and asked God to show her what to do. “I knew it was a Christian program,” she says, "so when I got accepted, I told God, ‘Okay, obviously you want me to find you.’”
And she did.
“I knew about Jesus growing up … but I learned to accept him here. I knew he died for us on the cross, but here I actually learned scripture that explained that he can forgive me for everything I’ve done even though I’ve turned away from him.”
She also learned about habits she needed to change. “Overspending has been difficult for me,” she admits. “Being here has helped with that. I know how to budget now …. Every month, I pay down my debt.”
Another habit she’s working on is building self-esteem. She reminds herself often that what matters is what God thinks of her, despite the opinions of others. “I learned to have my own voice here,” she says. “I’ve grown a lot.”
And her children are growing too. “I never thought they’d want to go to church, but every Sunday they’re excited about going,” she says with a smile. “They love their [Sunday School] teacher.”
On top of that, her 11-year-old daughter, Andrea, is able to complete an entire school year at a single school for the first time. And this summer, Andrea will be participating in a STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Math) program in Boston. “Being here has provided happiness,” she says. “They know it’s temporary, but they feel like they finally have a home.”
Thanks to your support, mothers like Carol can find a safe place to rebuild their lives at Champa House, and they are able to learn and grow beyond the habits and circumstances that brought them to the Mission. In fact, Carol recently attended Emily Griffith Technical College and plans to use her experience and education to help people in the immigration process. “I feel like so many women come over here and get abused and have to stay quiet,” she says. “I want to advocate for people who don’t have a voice.”
Because of you, Carol finally found her own voice, and so have hundreds of other men, women and children across our various programs as they grow into self-sufficient members of our community. Thank you for helping us change the lives of families like Carol’s today.
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Carol’s story was featured in the May 2016 issue of Changing Lives titled “Finding Her Voice”
Also in this issue:
- Letter from the CEO
- Spring Graduation