Can you have power if you are not strong?
I had a simple but very joyful childhood; what we might even call a “normal childhood,” though I’ve never been one for “normalizing” things. My family was very close knit. I went to a public primary school, however, by Junior High I was enrolled in a middle-class private school, one which my parents paid with some difficulty. On weekends we used to travel to Purulhá, the beautiful land where my father was born.
I was an average student: I wasn’t lazy, but neither outstanding. I made great friends, and I was always a very friendly girl, and very sentimental as well. I didn’t always like to take actions that could be called hard or harsh. For the most part, I spent my childhood running around in the fields, playing with my family’s security guard’s son, and especially playing with my comadre “La Lola.”
I was very lucky to have two parents who were the most humane and smartest people I ever met: Bernardo Lemus Mendoza and Thelma Isabel Gordillo de Lemus. They taught me among other things, values and social principles. My father was assassinated during the country’s armed conflict, around the time I was turning 14. My mother died in a tragic accident a couple of years later.
After getting married, divorcing, raising my children, and teaching them a bit of what I had learned, I finally had the opportunity to come back to the place I now call home; coincidentally at the time they opened a library named after him, in his honor.
One day I decided to visit that library, and I saw that there were a lot of children there. Most of them were wearing rubber boots. Truly they made me remember my primary schoolmates from my childhood (and my father’s own childhood I am sure). Children from low-income families came to the library hoping to find some kind of information they could use in their school homework.
It was there where I found that special courage I needed to start making a difference. I began by helping the kids find the information they needed, provide them with textbooks, and teaching them how to look up things in the dictionary. I saw how these kids would pull crumpled pieces of paper out of their pants’ pockets with the intention of achieving a different and better opportunity in life.
I began, with the help of my brothers, to look for educational materials even if they were used. Notebooks, crayons, illustrations, things that would make it easier for these kids to have an opportunity to obtain a life that was different, and a bit better than the one that we as a society have sentenced poor people to live. An integrated educational approach as a tool can change this.
It is impossible to talk about education when you are barefoot and hungry. It is because of this reason that our work has been centered around diverse activities, always looking to form independent human beings, with values, principles, good health, a spirit of community improvement and involvement, emotional intelligence, critical reasoning, and above all, the desire to earn by themselves the opportunity they are looking for, without hoping somebody will do that for them.
You don’t have to be an extraordinary person, but one does need to take on a social responsibility agreement with the heart. This is the power we each have as individuals.