In Her Own Words
Updated: Oct 24
I want to continue working at UPAVIM until I’m old. I owe UPAVIM so much, they have given me so much.''
Lili, a seamstress in UPAVIM's crafts program for over 23 years, joined the UPAVIM Community Development Foundation's recent board meeting to share a bit about her story and how UPAVIM has impacted her life. She gave us permission to share her incredibly moving story to you, our community of supporters:
Lili came to work at UPAVIM in 2001. At the time, she was pregnant and her husband had recently been killed, leaving her a single mother to 4 children. Soon after her son was born, he suffered a stroke which left him mentally disabled.
UPAVIM has been an incredibly important organization and employer to her. She credits so many at UPAVIM for helping her over the years during the most difficult times in her life, not just economically, but also emotionally and morally. Thanks to UPAVIM she has been able to continue to move her family forward.
All of her kids attended the UPAVIM free daycare center and all went on to study in the UPAVIM elementary Montessori school- also housed in the same building as her work. Thanks to the education they received at UPAVIM, her children have graduated, something which is not easy to do in their neighborhood. Lili is so proud of them, sharing that one of her daughters now works as a P.E. teacher.
Lili recounts a particular memory that impacted her at UPAVIM: one year during Valentine's Day, Barb (UPAVIM's founder) brought chocolates for all the woman and approached Lili giving her a chocolate and saying "Happy Valentine's Day" (in Spanish, it's "Day of Caring"). Lili cried, realizing that very rarely had she received such care and love in her life- this moment stayed with her. Shortly after, with UPAVIM's support, Lili began to see a psychologist who helped her with her self-esteem.
Lili says "In Guatemala there is so much machismo and women are only seen as worthwhile for having children".
Over the years, she has met women at UPAVIM with similar stories, sometimes worse. She enjoys the camaraderie of working together with her co-workers, sharing fond memories of sometimes working until 1-2am in the morning with the other women in order to a finish large craft order.
She married again 10 years ago and had a daughter but her husband died in an accident shortly afterwards and she finds herself a widow again.
At the beginning of 2022, she was diagnosed with cancer. She says, "I don't want to die because I want to see my daughter grow up and have an education and a better job, life, than me". In January, this year she started chemo therapy, in May radiotherapy, and in June started brachytherapy. UPAVIM has given her one year paid leave with full salary while she's in therapy and attending to her health. She says, "people like Barb and all of you are angels because who else would do this for me?".
In the video below, hear from Lili's two children in a message they made for UPAVIM donors. The translation is as follows: "Good Afternoon, my name is Sharlot Perez. This afternoon I came to thank everyone who has donated to my mother during this difficult time. I thank you with all my heart. May God bless you."
Thank you to all of our supporters, volunteers, and donors over the years that have helped create the support network that UPAVIM has become to so many women and families in Guatemala! Lili's is just one story of many at UPAVIM...