The Impact of Education (or lack of) – July 6, 2010

 Miriam hopes to keep her younger children in school

Miriam hopes to keep her younger children in school

I recently made a home visit to the Gutierrez family to talk with Miriam, a single mother whose husband died a couple of years ago. Miriam and her children are survivors, having experienced both a great deal of sadness and life changes. Miriam’s oldest son, Ariel—a child with severe disabilities sponsored by Carrie’s Heart, passed away in August 2009.

After her husband’s death and Ariel’s passing, Miriam became increasingly uncomfortable and didn’t feel welcome living with her in-laws. Yet she was dependent on them for shelter, childcare, to share food and other aspects of their life. Miriam took a giant leap of faith they could make it on their own and moved her six children to a modest one-room rental. Her second oldest son, Erick, lost interest in school after his father died. Erick quit school before he was 12, the “obligatory” school attendance age that is not enforced. At the ripe “old” age of 13, Erick is now working to support himself and his grandmother with whom he is living.

Miriam is young, bright, very responsible and a caring mother but she confided she doesn’t have much formal education. As a result, she can’t read, write or even spell her children’s names. I discovered this when I asked if she needed assistance with the children’s school supplies next month and requested her help in compiling information about their ages, school, grade levels, etc. She’s learned to “cope” and brought me her file with their birth certificates so together we created the needed information. Her family will be part of the ~75 children receiving backpacks and basic needs sponsored by the Friends of Cozumel School Supplies project.

We often assume illiteracy is primarily an issue for seniors or those with special challenges. However, there are many people like Miriam, often women of all ages, who didn’t have the opportunity to learn the basics of reading and math. The impact on their lives is profound. For example, during my visit with Miriam, all the children arrived home from school. They LOVE school! After exchanging greetings, they excitedly got out their notebooks to show me what they had learned that day. A family friend arrived about the same time. He comes daily to help the children with their homework. Imagine not being able to read to your child, notices from school or their report cards!

Miriam wants more for her younger children ages 5 – 11. Her dream is to keep them actively involved in school at least through age 12 and hopefully beyond so they get an education. Although Miriam’s lack of formal education has limited her ability to read and write, her LIFE education and perseverance is a positive role model for her children. Although they still experience sad times, in the past six months their family has become self-sufficient and Miriam proudly shared with me their life is happier and less stressful. –Karen

One thought on “The Impact of Education (or lack of) – July 6, 2010

  1. Phyllis Larsen

    Hmmm. I wonder if FOC should explore literacy programs for people like Miriam? Is there something we could be doing to help?

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