The story of Miriam
and the creation of the Emmanuel Fundacion school
by Natacha Nicora
Miriam finished high school when she was 36 years old. She was born in Chile but when she was about a year and a half there was a tsunami in Valparaiso that took away the whole city. Her parents lost their jobs and had to think about where they could head of and they landed out where the Foundation is settled.
There, she did her primary and secondary education until fourth grade when she left high school to raise her first born, her son Juan. She went on working to provide her children with all they needed until they all finished secondary school. And one day, when her daughter was about to get her high school degree, she pointed out : "Why don't you finish high school, Mom? We are all adults now! You finish high school and you pursue the career you always wanted: Teaching."
The same year, she got her secondary degree and started her three years teaching degree. Another year and a half later she also got her adult teaching degree, an extra opportunity she grabbed along the way and which became her passion.
"I worked in several schools, first teaching at elementary level and then tutoring high school scholars. I also worked in minors institutions and also prisons. A minor institution is where children and adolescents who have legal or drug problems are placed. Sometimes their parents have addiction problems and the State puts the children in these establishments to protect them. Many had never seen a school until they they ended up there. These institutions are nasty places for children to be: agression and abuse are part of their daily lives. The only time they could "breathe" and feel free was when they attended school."
Today, Miriam is a teenager tutor and an adult teacher at Las Quintas. She is working two jobs both for economic reasons but also because she loves working as a teacher to both of them. As a tutor of teenagers, she is not just following their development, but also taking care of them, listening to them, talking about their situations at home, their problems with their parents. "Knwong the community and the problems parents and children are facing here, helps. Children go to school, get lunch at noon and an afternoon snack. Sometimes, these are the only meals they get a day. Malnutrition remains a problem around here and children sometimes end up sleeping in class because of lack of food. Parents often spend all their time working and have hardly any money for proper meals".
With her field work and contacts with parents from the community, Miriam soon realised parents could not read or write, yet alone spell their name, sign any documents or help their children in school work. Teaching them became her objective but getting the permits, a place to teach or a supportive environment was harder find. Eventually, she ended up at the Foundation who decided to support her project of starting a first adult class. The inspection requested full report on registrations and did not expect more than 4/6 to show up, but that was not going to stop Miriam. Visiting house after house, she ended up in all sorts of odd and unexpected situations to promote her project. Once she even escaped being attacked by a dog.
But, ... she started off with 3 then 4 adults and, reassured by the Foundation who was convinced the adults would eventually show up, she ended up days later with a full class! Today, the school at the Foundation has 15 parents attending class in the morning and 26 in the afternoon and they all stop working to come to class and ask to get more homework to learn faster.
" It is so rewarding to work with adults, just priceless ! To be able to help these people to read a full sentence, a title of a newspaper so they can gradually recognise numbers or find their direction in the streets. Also, and that is the cherry on the cake, to know they can start helping their child with school work is just beyond any teacher's expectation".
Classes are from 9:00 to 12:00, and the afternoon on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 18:00 to 20:00. And next year, Miriam will be teaching every morning and every afternoon, so those who can not come in the morning can come in the afternoon. Miriam has mothers attend class while their babies are staying at the nursery. " The educators suggested to the mothers to stay and learn so they could help better their baby and they do. So awesome !".
For Miriam, the Foundation is a beautiful place where children are very well taken care of while their parents are working. "I grew up here, I know how wonderful this place is supported by students and all the community that participates. The volunteers as well as the operational staff always have a kind word to stimulate, support, smooth the aches of life. "I once had a a student", Miriam said, "who, for very sad personal reasons, had to stop coming to class. She was assaulted and robbed on her way to school. Her little girl was raped, right in front of her. After that, she was too afraid to leave her anywhere. But here, the teams helped her in many ways: with food , psychological support ... Eventually, mother and child felt less alone and healed. Next to the material support, it is the humanity, the human kindness that made the difference to everyone of the children and adults who ended up at the Foundation, including those two!"