JOCOTENANGO, Guatemala – Gratefulness overcomes Rufina Hernandez when she talks about her shoes. They are the second pair of new shoes she’s ever owned, and each of them were from Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls® through the local Buckner Family Hope Center.“Shoes are happiness,” she says with tears in her eyes. “I hope God blesses the people who have given these shoes for their giving hearts.”
“Happiness” is only the beginning of what the 32-year-old mother discovered at the Hope Center. Rufina embraced education and hope too.
“I work near the Family Hope Center cleaning houses,” she says. “I was walking by one day on my way to work and I read a sign that said ‘CONALFA.’ I went inside and asked questions about how I could be a part of that opportunity.”
CONALFA is a program instituted by the Guatemalan government to promote literacy and basic education among adults, and the Hope Center in Jocotenango is a site where individuals can take classes.
Rufina thought her opportunity to learn was lost long ago. The oldest of 13 children, her mother and stepfather pulled her out of school after first grade. Her mother had just had her fourth baby and the family had too little money and too many mouths to feed to afford luxuries like school supplies. Rufina spent the rest of her childhood helping raise her siblings, and the dream of finishing school slipped further and further out of reach.
When she inquired about CONALFA, Rufina was thrilled about the possibility of going back and finishing her primary education. Her husband had his doubts at first – money is tight for them, just like it was for Rufina’s mother and stepfather. He was afraid the course and materials would be too expensive, but when the couple learned that Buckner provides everything free of charge, he was sold.
“Now he says that if it’s something I really want, one of my dreams, I should continue to my goal,” Rufina says.
She began classes in March 2014 and finished her coursework through sixth grade. In less than a year, she became literate.
“It was hard,” she says. “I wake up very early and go to sleep late to get everything done. Sometimes you feel like you can’t do something because you’re tired or you feel you can’t continue. God has helped me to have faith and that strength that helps me continue with my classes.”
Rufina has become a different person since finding Buckner.
“These classes have helped my confidence and self-esteem a lot,” she says. “Before, I was depressed and not that happy. Now, I have a lot of energy and I want to continue. It’s even helped me be a better mother to my kids. It’s given me a purpose.”
She also made friends through the classes. She and her classmates are continuing their commitment to education by starting classes in English and computers at Buckner this year. Rufina says she and her friends cheer each other on, and her Buckner social worker encourages her, too.
“Personally, for me, Buckner has been a blessing in my life, not just in education, but spiritually, too. When we receive home visits from our case worker, they have prayed for me and my family and our needs, so that really helps.”
Rufina’s family and many others depend on the humanitarian aid they receive from Buckner through new shoes, backpacks and school supplies. The provision of these basic, yet often unaffordable, necessities helps ensure that her children remain in school and finish their education on schedule.
“I hope this help doesn’t end, because for me and for many others Buckner has been a big blessing,” she says. “When my kids get new shoes, they are really, really happy. My youngest, Priscilla, who’s 6, woke me up at 5:15 this morning saying, ‘Mom, let’s go, let’s go, let’s go!’ because she knew she was going to get new shoes and a backpack today.”