“Esperanza Juvenil has been a great blessing- not just for me, but for my whole family. It allows young people to fulfill their dreams and create change in society.”
Ericka Barrios will remember 2020 as the year she graduated from high school and the year she survived cancer.
Ericka joined Esperanza Juvenil, Boys Hope Girls Hope’s Guatemalan affiliate, after finishing the 6th grade. Her family didn’t have the resources for Ericka to continue studying, a common challenge for families in Guatemala. She learned about Esperanza Juvenil through a partner organization that supports pre-school and elementary school children in a very economically challenged neighborhood of Zone 5 of Guatemala’s capital.
Ericka has always lived with her mother, father and four younger siblings in a home with two rooms. At the time Ericka joined Esperanza Juvenil, her father was incarcerated and Ericka’s mother, whose sole income came from selling used clothes at a local market, depended on Ericka to help with the care of the siblings.
Every day, Ericka would come from her home to Esperanza Juvenil where she would study and participate in activities to support her personal development from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. She would return home by 6 p.m.
At the beginning of 2019, Ericka experienced pain in her stomach. Through medical care organized by Esperanza Juvenil, she was diagnosed with cancer; a large tumor had grown in her stomach. Esperanza Juvenil was able to connect Ericka and her family to AYUVI, an organization that provides pediatric cancer care for children. Ericka underwent a major operation followed by four rounds of chemotherapy. Through it all, she stayed connected with her Esperanza Juvenil friends and teachers who sent her cards and other signs of support. She stayed focused on her faith, her recovery and her great desire to continue with her education.
While Ericka was in her treatment, her mother came to work for Esperanza Juvenil as a cook. This allowed Ericka’s mother to care for her daughter on the days Ericka was home and work on the days she was at the hospital. Once Ericka recovered, she worked extremely hard to get caught up with the goal of graduating with her classmates.
Lucas Pinzon, Executive Director of Esperanza Juvenil, said, “Ericka has so many great qualities, one of which is her resilience to overcome life’s difficulties. Ericka has had many challenges and despite these, her determination to achieve her dreams is allowing her to complete her high school studies. I have no doubt that she will continue to make a difference in the lives of so many.”
Ericka will graduate from high school in October and start the university in January, in line with the Guatemalan school year. Ericka said, “I want to study clinical psychology and be there for people who have to confront difficult situations in their lives. The psychologist at the hospital was a great help to me and inspired me to pursue this path.”
Ericka said, “Esperanza Juvenil has been a great blessing- not just for me, but for my whole family. It allows young people to fulfill their dreams and create change in society.”
Pictured in photos from top to bottom: 1. Erika, before she was diagnosed with cancer 2. Erika during her treatment 3. Erika with her mother, cancer free!