Ivannia welcomed visitors from Unbound to her home with a warm smile.
Two of her children are sponsored through Unbound in Costa Rica. She graciously agreed to share her story to show the impact of sponsorship and belonging to a mothers group in her family.
Ivannia spoke candidly about the trials she’s faced.
She described a childhood made more difficult by her father’s struggles with alcoholism. She said her mother did the best she could working as a housekeeper — doing laundry, ironing and child care — to provide for her children’s needs.
“For my mother, education was always a priority despite the little she had,” Ivannia said.
Basic needs, though, sometimes went unmet despite her mother’s efforts.
“At Christmas,” Ivannia recalled, “I would ask my mother for new shoes and she would always tell me, ‘Wait, we will see if we have enough money.’ We hardly ever did.”
Ivannia had to quit school when she was 13.
“I only completed sixth grade and began to work,” she said. “I had no other option but to help my siblings, since I was the older one and I had to earn some income to help the household. My mother could not afford me going to school, so I helped my mother raise the small ones.”
At 17, Ivannia had her first child. Things didn’t change much for her as a wife and mother, since her husband also struggled with alcoholism.
“I became pregnant again and I told myself, ‘How do I leave him now with two kids?’ So I started to put up with his behavior and the way he mistreated us. We were 15 years together.
“A little [while] after my third child was born, he committed suicide.”
Ivannia’s biggest fear was, “What am I going to do now?”
One thing was clear. Her children came first.
“I decided to work as hard as I could to build a better life for them and for me,” she said. “I had no option but to look forward. I had to keep going.”
The mothers group meetings provided a place for Ivannia “to vent, to be heard,” she said.
“Being part of the groups is what motivated me and helped me. … This gave me a place to let it out, what I had lived through in the week.”
The Unbound mothers groups in Costa Rica are referred to as circles of hope, and each circle has its own identity.
“This is a great support,” Ivannia said of her group. “We are 25 mothers and our name is Triumphal Women.”
While meeting topics vary, with lectures offered on subjects such as strategies for raising teenagers and practicing forgiveness, the basic structure of the meetings is the same.
“We begin with a prayer to put ourselves in the hands of God,” Ivannia said. “We talk about our problems. We listen to each other, give advice to each other. Those with teenagers give advice to those with younger children.
“We learn handicraft techniques and work on that for about an hour. At the end of the meeting, we get a cup of coffee. It’s really a nice moment.”
Ivannia does laundry work, babysits and helps out at a dress-making shop to earn income for her family. She’s been able to earn a little extra money by selling handicrafts. She credits sponsorship with making her children’s lives better.
“We had so many needs that any small help made a big difference,” Ivannia said. “My children began receiving school supplies and uniforms. They participated in activities.
“They were part of a dance group and had many presentations. They enjoyed so many different experiences that began to accumulate in their hearts and in their lives.”
Ivannia and her children, Kimberly, 20, Jose, 12, and Maria, 4, live in a small addition in back of her parents’ house. She said her father, a day laborer, quit drinking about 10 years ago.
Her parents have been supportive of Ivannia and her family, which now also includes a grandson, Aaron, Kimberly’s little boy. They take care of the children when Ivannia has to work and are in constant communication with the family.
Ivannia’s dreams for her children’s future are “for them to study, to become men and women of goodwill, for their lives to be different.”
“I keep telling them that I will help them as much as I can but they have to make their own efforts,” she said. “I want them to feel proud of who they are.”
In her late 30s, Ivannia has dreams for herself, too. She wants to go back to school someday to become a teacher.
“I know it’s hard,” she said. “I have children to raise, school to pay, transportation to cover. But it’s a dream that I hope will become real.”
Her advice to other parents is to work hard for their families and “don’t ever look back.”
“God gives us the strength to carry the load we have,” Ivannia said. “… No matter what people say, family is always first.”
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