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Advice From a Guatemalteca: Don't Give Up, That's the Main Thing


By Robin Savinar

Delvy left her family and her hometown of Acatenango, Guatemala at age 18. She moved to the capital, Guatemala City, earned a degree as a bilingual secretary and started working in a busy office.

Delvy fled Guatemala for political reasons two years later in 1990. She went to Los Angeles, California with one of her sisters where she met up with a distant uncle. After one week Delvy's uncle helped move her to San Francisco where Delvy began to work. First she worked in a store that sold Guatemalan handicrafts, then as a babysitter. These were just two of many jobs Delvy held to make ends meet.

In 1993 Delvy got married. She kept working throughout her married life even after the births of her two daughters. Then Delvy had a severe stroke when she was 26-years-old. Delvy was in intensive care for two weeks. She was told she would never walk again.

After she became disabled Delvy got depressed. She no longer wanted to be married because she felt like she was a burden. Delvy felt her husband would have to do everything for her now. Delvy said, "I felt it would be hard for him to be with a woman in a wheelchair." They didn't split then, but Delvy began to realize she was becoming dependent on him. She didn't think she could get a job because she had a disability, so she didn't try.

While she was recovering Delvy was doing physical therapy. Eventually Delvy started to walk again. After she started walking Delvy decided she wanted to be independent of her husband. Delvy's relationship with her husband started to be strained. She began to worry about what would happen to her and her daughters if her husband left them. She wanted to be able to provide for them on her own.

When Delvy went out in search of work with her disability she encountered discrimination. Delvy said, "People don't think I can do the job because of the way I look." On three separate occasions Delvy was denied work by managers who said they wouldn't hire her because of her disability. In addition to difficulty finding paid employment, Delvy was doing a lot of work at home.

As a mother with a disability, Delvy had to learn how to do everything over again. With help from counselors at Through the Looking Glass - an organization that assists families that have parents or children with disabilities - Delvy learned how to change a diaper and do household chores with one hand. It was Delvy's counselor at Through the Looking Glass who introduced her to Proyecto Visión.

Toll-free hotline operator Daniel Gutierrez started assisting Delvy in 2002. He referred her to vocational rehabilitation, helped her enroll for English and computer classes, sign up to receive a Section 8 housing voucher and look for jobs. Daniel even referred Delvy to legal service agencies to help her finalize her divorce.

Today Delvy does maintenance work in the restaurant business to pay the bills. Delvy sees her current position as temporary until she completes her computer classes and secures a position in an office. Nevertheless, Delvy is happy to have her job because it allows her to live independently with her daughters. Delvy's advice on how to find employment to Proyecto Visión readers is, "Don't give up. That's the main thing."