Six years ago, Noemy Florez felt so desperate and unable to cope that she considered giving up her own children.
As a single mother to two small children, Noemy struggled to cope after her mother passed away. She was alone in Argentina, with nobody to help support her – unable to work and care for her children at the same time.
Noemy remembers feeling hopeless –
“I felt desperate, I could not feed my children, I wanted to leave them in a shelter. I felt that they were a hindrance.”
After moving back to Bolivia, Noemy came across SOS Children’s Village Santa Cruz and asked that they take her children. The SOS team decided that her children would be best remaining in Noemy’s care, with support from their family strengthening programme at Plan 4000, the district where she lived in Santa Cruz.
“Besides our regular visits to the family’s household, the first thing we did with Noemy was to give her psychological counselling twice a week,” says Ingrid Romero, SOS family advisor. “She urgently needed to develop her maternal skills, self-confidence and communication with her new partner.”
SOS helped Noemy’s family with their health needs and gave them nutritional support to ensure the wellbeing of the children. Noemy was able to learn new skills through participating in income-generating activities such as cooking lessons and craft classes.
As part of the family strengthening programme, participants are encouraged to create a support network in their community. Noemy and other mothers from the programme formed ‘United forces’, a support group where they have monthly meetings to discuss families in their community they believe are at risk. They help the most urgent cases by providing food and guidance.
“We have each other’s backs. Sometimes I look after one’s children or when a family is in need of help, we give them what we call a black bag with food such as rice and beans,” says Noemy.
Today, Noemy is an empowered and positive woman. She has remarried and has since had another daughter, two-year-old Mia.
The mother of three wakes up at 2 am every day to prepare chicken and pork empanadas, a recipe she learned at the cooking workshops. At 4 am, she takes the freshly baked goods to the market and comes back just in time to see Alex and Daniela go to school, while her husband goes to work and Mia wakes up.
After three years of support from the SOS team, the children are doing well and the family has attained self-sufficiency. Although Noemy admits their income is not stable, what is important is that she is empowered and ambitious enough to set herself higher goals.
Noemy and her husband recently bought land in another district and will start building their house next year. She is currently a community representative for ‘United Forces’ and is completing her schooling at an adult education institution. She hopes to one day follow her lifelong dream of becoming a nurse.
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