Hero Spotlight: Maria overcomes her past and pursues her passion

August 31, 2017

When Maria was born, her mother was addicted to drugs, and when Maria was 22 days old, her mother abandoned her. Her older sister, who had already started her own family, took custody of Maria and moved to La Romana, Dominican Republic. Her sister’s husband worked, but there was not enough money for Maria or her sister’s sons to attend school.

Over time, her sister stopped coping with the stress of poverty, gradually becoming withdrawn and then abusive. At this point, when Maria was 10, she was removed from her sister’s home and placed in the orphanage.

Maria ( the second row, wearing pink polo)  working on an assignment in her Survival Skills class.

Now 18 and living outside the orphanage, Maria is enrolled in Survival Skills classes with Joanna. She is an eager student, and now that she no longer lives in the orphanage, the lessons are especially fascinating to her because she understands their applications. She is still in high school and plans to study business administration in college.

Maria says she is grateful for the Survival Skills classes in that they have opened her eyes to the real world and are preparing her for a stable adult life.

“I have learned so many things that I had no idea about,” Maria said. “My teacher is so wise, and so right about everything.”

Survival Skills students on their recent trip to the rehabilitation center. 

She and her Survival Skills classmates recently took a field trip to a drug rehabilitation center, where adult men are trying to free themselves from the clutches of drug addiction. Having experienced hopelessness as a child, but inspired by her current positive future outlook, Maria spontaneously addressed the men and encouraged them to follow their dreams and move forward. She told them she knows that it takes courage to take control of their lives and try to fix them. Despite her innate shyness, Maria was compelled to speak publicly to the men.

“Speaking to them made me very happy,” she said. “For the first 10 years of my life, I was surrounded by the kind of sadness these men are dealing with, the drugs and the delinquency, and I felt that God called me to share with them.”

Maria hopes ultimately to manage a foundation that helps children and adults with a rocky past see that they have value, worth and the power to change their lives.

“I am motivated by seeing kids on the streets who ask for money, who don’t study, who sleep on the street, who have no place to be – that motivates me to make a difference.”

Despite facing tragedy early in her life, Maria is determined to use a hand up from Just Hope to build a better future for herself and others.

We invite you to learn more about our Survival Skills program in the Dominican Republic, and see how you can make an impact in the lives of at-risk youth.

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