Our second Guatemalan house visit brought us to the doorstep of Brenda and Francisca Chiviliu Quinac, two sisters in the Starfish program who live on the outskirts of Santiago. This area is more urban than the village of Griselda, with families generally living in compounds located on dirt paths off of side roads. The pathways wind around corners, with sudden appearances of small cornfields and vegetable patches sandwiched between homes. Nicolasa, Brenda and Francisca’s mother, keeps a spotless home at the end of one of these paths, where she teaches, counsels, and encourages her two daughters about the importance of education.
When Nicolasa was 12, her father took her out of school to make her work as a domestic servant in order to contribute to the family income. She tells her story in her indigenous dialect, and while none of us can understand her words, her emotion is palpable. Brenda, the youngest at 14, translates for her mother, telling us that her mother would have liked to have been a doctor, if she had gotten the opportunities her daughters now have. She struggled for many years to try and make ends meet so both of her daughters could attend school, but eventually Francisca, now 18, had to drop out so that Brenda could at least make it a few grades higher. When Starfish came to visit the family after starting to sponsor Brenda, they found Nicolasa close to tears that she could not give Francisca an education as well; the Starfish team soon added Francisca tot he roster as well, and now she will be the first in her family to graduate high school.