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Change Agent

An oasis of community and support for Latina moms

In California, many Latina mothers find themselves cut off by domestic responsibilities and language barriers. But with the help of trusted mentors, they’re learning new skills and strengthening their support networks.

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On a sunny January morning in the historic district of Roseville, a woman escorts her young children into a building where more than a dozen women sit around two large tables. Over the course of the next hour, the women will discuss their struggles with issues including domestic violence, their husbands’ alcoholism, and argumentative teenaged children.

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Cordova stands at the head of the table as she facilitates the weekly meetings.

“Sometimes, when they come here, they don’t even know what they need,” she says, as the women assemble. “They just know something is lacking.” The women range in age from early 20s to late 50s. Once a week, they come together to form a sisterhood.

Blanca Arciniega, 47, has been attending these meetings for 13 years.

“I came here with a lot of fear, desperate and anxious for a way to escape,” she says in Spanish. “Thank god I was invited here to this personal power group and thank god I’ve learned to value myself. … I’m learning to heal. My life has changed 100 percent.”

As three of her kids sit giggling and snacking on cereal, Pastora Gonzalez, 33, talks about learning to release her stress, which has improved her relationship with her five young children. But she needs information on tenants’ rights and how to access inexpensive legal services. Her husband was unfairly fired from his job, she believes.

As she describes what happened, many of the women nod. They attend the weekly meetings partly for an escape from domestic life—all of them raise their hands when asked if they become depressed when at home too much—but also for the friendships that form within the group.

“Helping each other is extremely important,” says Marta Miramontes, who lost her young daughter to leukemia in October. Through her family’s struggles, she became an advocate. When she learns something new, she shares the knowledge. When other mothers ask questions, she gives them advice. Despite not being formally trained as a promotora, she’s one in spirit, and has become a leader among her peers.

“Marta not only found her voice,” Cordova says with pride, “but she’s a voice for the community.”

Sena Christian wrote this article for YES! Magazine, a national, nonprofit media organization that fuses powerful ideas with practical actions. Sena is a newspaper reporter in Roseville, Calif., with a passion for social justice and indoor soccer.

This article originally appeared in YES! Magazine.

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