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Francisco’s Story

Breaking the Poverty Barrier

For those of us that have been poor and have been able to break through the poverty barrier, it is the equivalent to traveling at the speed of light. The comparison might sound exaggerated for the ones that haven´t experienced it. To put things into perspective, the amount of time needed to pull through this cycle of impoverishment is approximately three decades. Back in the mid-sixties, my family migrated from the rural area to the “Big City.” Back in those days, Guatemala City seemed like a monster compared to the tiny rural places. All of our belongings fit in the back of a man-pulled carriage, similar to those drawn by horses. Describing the scene from the point of view of a five-year-old would probably take a couple of pages. The street gearing towards the place where we were going to live was an unending dirt road. We began our odyssey in a wooden shack no bigger than a ten by ten square feet room with a tin roof full of leaks and a dirt floor. I seemed taller while I lived there because my shoes were always covered with at least two inches of mud because we were still going through the rainy season at the time, and there was mud all over the place.

My mom, a widower in charge of two sons and a daughter, refused to accept her fate, and in less than a year, after saving some money from her work as a seamstress, she decided to move to a rented house nearby the place where we started. Both my brother and sister, ten and twelve years older than me, had very few educational opportunities past Junior High School. They had to have an early day view to the labor force. Three years later, in the late sixties, when my brother turned eighteen, he decided to go to the United States, the land of opportunity. A year later my mom followed him, leaving me in the care of my nineteen-year-old sister who had married two years before.

Living with my sister was somewhat traumatic because I had always lived under my mother´s care. Nevertheless, the sadness I experienced didn´t last long because a couple of years later, during the early seventies, my mom sent my brother to pick me up and take me to me to The States. Travelling to The States was definitely a turning point in my life because I had the educational opportunities I would never have had in Guatemala. I entered third-grade at Frank D. Parent Elementary School in Inglewood, California. I learned English in three months and excelled in all the activities I participated in. I was also part of the school choir. It was like living in wonderland. After finishing grade school, I returned to Guatemala to continue studying Junior High, and High School. Even though my living in California was short, I acquired one of the most important tools that in turn would become a stepping stone for the rest of my life. Thus, after finishing High School, I was able to have my first job as an English teacher.

Another important step in my life was getting married in 1983 and start a new life with my wife in California where we had three daughters. We were there until 1990 when we decided to head back to Guatemala.

When I returned to Guatemala in 1991, a new chapter in my life began. I entered college to get my English teaching certification thus discovering my true passion, education. I graduated in 1996 as a Magna Cum Laude from Del Valle University in Guatemala. I can humbly say that I worked as a teacher for some of the most prestigious upper class private educational institutions, including The American School of Guatemala, Metropolitan School, and Suger Montano School. While all this was taking place, my daughters continued their education until they graduated from college.

If you´ve read the poem The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost, you´d probably understand this new beginning.  A mid-life crisis isn´t easy; something was not happening in my life to fulfill me. I was tired, bored, frustrated with my life. The educational system was not fulfilling my needs as an administrator. Finally, in 2012, “two roads diverged in a yellow wood,” I was laid off as the principal of the school I worked for and a decision had to be taken. I set myself a time limit of three months. If at the end of those three months I didn´t find a job that fulfilled my needs I would head back to the States. After sending innumerable CV´s, and rejecting several job offerings, I received a call from Esperanza Juvenil to offer me a job as the principal of their school. Esperanza Juvenil was unlike the other schools I had worked for. It was a small school with impoverished students from the rural areas and the ghettos from the inner city. It was definitely a road not taken which needed wear through love, encouragement, and hope of a better tomorrow through education.

In conclusion, I can tell you that Esperanza Juvenil is the refusal to accept that there is no hope. The hope for a better today and a promising tomorrow. Working for Esperanza Juvenil/Boys Hope Girls Hope has been a blessing in disguise. It is definitely not a job; it is an apostleship which means “the office of the sent one. Apostles are primarily men and women of special gifts; they are caring people sent on a special commission.”  I´m sure every one of us has accepted this beautiful commission of planting the seeds of hope where there might be despair.

“This is my simple religion. No need for temples. No need for complicated philosophy. Your own mind, your own heart is the temple. Your philosophy is simple kindness.”
― Dalai Lama XIV


Francisco Martínez
Esperanza Juvenil


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