For her entire life, Blanca De La O has sought safety and peace. Her mother sent her from war-torn El Salvador to live with her grandmother in Honduras. There, Blanca’s life was a back-breaking, night-and-day grind of manual labor. Soon, she had children, and their education became her first priority. “My mom couldn’t read or write in Spanish,” said her oldest son, Carlos. “She wanted us to have an education and a better life.”
In 2001, a desperate Blanca endured a harrowing journey to the United States. She arrived owing a huge debt to the “coyote” who smuggled her into the country, and her family was having trouble coming up with the money. Knowing what had happened to some who couldn’t pay, Blanca feared she’d be raped or murdered.
Once she settled in Maryland and began to work, Blanca sent for her children. First 10-year-old Selvin arrived. A few months later, Carlos, 13, and Riccy, 7, followed with their father.
Blanca began coming to the Esperanza Center for English lessons, and for medical services for the children. But when she got a deportation order, things seemed hopeless. “I was afraid not because it was bad for me, but for my children,” she said.
And then, another crisis: a particularly violent assault by her husband.
The experts at the Esperanza Center helped her secure a visa for herself and her children through a program for crime victims and their immediate family. Today, Blanca loves her job caring for retired School Sisters of Notre Dame at Villa Assumpta. And her dream for her children has come true. Carlos graduated with honors from Loyola University and is attending the School of Pharmacy at Notre Dame of Maryland University. Selvin also received a full academic scholarship to Loyola, where he is majoring in physics and math. Riccy will enter Loyola as a freshman this year. They credit the Esperanza Center for making it possible.
“What I think people should take away from our story is that you should never give up,” said Riccy. “Our family faced so many problems, but we never lost hope.”