Written by Martha de Mancia and Michelle Negron Bueno.
Norma and her husband, José, lived in a very run down house in the community of Sirigual. Their situation was very desperate, as they tried to care for two young children, Zenaida and Erick, in a one-room home with crumbling walls and dirt floors. But they were managing their struggle. However, with her third pregnancy, Norma faced a situation all mothers fear. Six months into her pregnancy, she gave birth to twin, premature boys, Osael and Antony. For many weeks, Norma and her young sons had to remain in the hospital. During that time, Antony grew stronger while his twin, Osael, did not.
Finally, however, they were able to return home. Although their house was extremely dilapidated, they did the best they could and created a loving home. At 14 months old, Antony began to walk and loved to entertain his brother who had trouble hearing and speaking. Norma and José yearned to see Osael try to follow his brother, but he only watched. Norma would place him on the ground to encourage him to crawl, but he would cry, preferring to be held.
In 2013, the twins turned two-years-old and that’s when the local church, Siloe, began to work with community leaders to address the need for safe and secure housing. Since 2009, the church had been working with ENLACE and building stronger relationships with community leaders through a vairety of smaller projects. When they saw the way this family was struggling, both the church and community wanted to intervene. When a housing project was approved, Norma and José were on the top of the list.
About a year later, they received their new home which now has proper walls, a sturdy roof, wide windows, bedrooms, and a front porch. But most importantly to Norma and José, it has a cement floor. When Osael entered his new home for the first time and his mother placed him on the floor, he didn’t ask to be picked back up right away. For the first time, Norma began to see something different happen. “I think that little Osael was so much more comfortable with the feel of something solid under his feet,” said Norma. “One day he just stood up, and since then he’s not stopped walking. Every day he does a little better, and I think he will continue to improve. I keep hoping, too, that one day he will start to talk and even say, ‘mama’.”
Norma is now a member of the local community association, a role she was at first hesitant to fill.
“They asked me if I would be on the association but I was scared! I wouldn’t know what to do. But they were persistent and I finally realized that I just need to serve. I am here to support others and it gives me great joy to help others the way I was helped.”