Loving your neighbor

Current Events & News | 06/03/2020

Melba Rodriguez de Martin

This story, originally told in Spanish by the author, has been translated to English and published with minor edits.

My family came here to escape from El Salvador in January 2019. In our hometown, my husband and I owned a small bakery and we went to church. We were very involved in our community. Because of the gang violence and attacks on small businesses like ours, we had no choice but to leave everything behind, including our 20-year-old son.

Our son got a scholarship to go to a civil engineering school where he would be safe. If he had come with us, he would have lost his scholarship. I miss my son every day. His scholarship covers about half of his tuition and before COVID-19, we were sending him money each month to cover the other half so that he could graduate. We can’t do that anymore.

We also had to leave my mother, and I miss her and the rest of my family who remain in El Salvador. It’s been harder to communicate with them lately and they hear news of the spreading virus and worry for us.

As newcomers to the United States, we’ve had to adjust and adapt as best we can. Our biggest fear during the COVID-19 crisis has been the possibility of losing our home if we are unable to make rent. We lost our jobs at the beginning of the quarantine. Luckily we are working again, though our hours are dramatically reduced. We have quickly learned that in the U.S., if you can’t pay your rent you’ll be kicked out. We are also worried about food because we don’t have much money for it. We must save every penny we make for the rent. Right now, we are only thinking about the rent. 

We are grateful for local food resources, like the ones Stand for Children Indiana has directed us to, because they have provided us some of what we need. We are having to learn how to use the food we receive. It’s not the food we are accustomed to eating and when it is not enough we do have to use some of the rent money so our children, a second-grader and tenth-grader, don’t go hungry.

It was very difficult to transition when we moved here and it is difficult again because of COVID-19. Our work on our documentation status has been put on hold, which is scary. My children were just adapting to life at school and learning English. My second-grader has caught on faster to English compared to the rest of us, but home learning is still a challenge. The district sent my oldest a laptop, but the only internet access we have for my tenth-grader is the hotspot on my phone.

It was so difficult to worry about my kids’ educations while we were just thinking about our basic needs, but we are still trying to do what we can. I want my children to receive great educations so they can follow their dreams. I worry that when they return to school they will fail their exams. I worry they are not getting the education they need, especially because they were already behind due to also having to learn the language.

Before COVID-19, we were very involved at our children’s schools. We helped other parents with rides to meetings. We helped with school dances. We wanted our children to have the best and we wanted to do all we could to stay involved despite the language barrier.

We know there are other families who feel how we are feeling right now, which is why despite our challenges, we help other families every time we can. We delivered food boxes and school packets to other families when we lost our jobs at the start of COVID-19. I call this “loving your neighbor,” and I believe it is important. Whatever we can do to help others, especially those in our same situation, we do it.

I hope that in hearing my story, you’ll also help other families like mine. If you need information about food resources, health and wellness or academic support, please visit this page on the Stand Indiana website.




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