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Karen feels ‘strengthened’ by her time at the Mission


Karen carried a lot on her shoulders as a kid growing up in El Salvador. At first, it was her parents and four siblings, but things changed when her parents divorced. “My dad moved to Spain, and after he left, I felt responsible for the care of my younger siblings,” she said. “My mom was really depressed at the time. She was also pregnant when my father left, and he never contacted us after he moved.

“I blocked a lot of my childhood out of my brain. It is a way to cover up some of my childhood pain.” 

Karen attended a small school in her village and didn’t graduate high school. “I knew I had to get to the United States so I could try to provide a better life for my siblings,” she said.

Karen came to the U.S. when she was 15, but was caught by immigration and was placed in an immigration center for six months. She was later brought to a foster home in Massachusetts. “While I was living in Massachusetts, I met a guy and had a daughter with him,” she said. “We fought a lot and the cops were often called to our home. It got so bad between us that Child Protective Services almost removed my daughter.”

At that point, Karen took a good hard look at her life. “That’s when I realized things weren’t going how they should and they needed to change,” she said. “I sent my daughter to live with my mom in El Salvador while I cleaned up the mess me and my boyfriend at the time had made. I didn’t want CPS to take my daughter.”

Karen said the time apart from her daughter was extremely difficult. “I missed her so much,” she said. “When CPS closed the case two-and-a-half months later, I went right away to get my daughter. She was 1 ½ at the time. When I arrived, my daughter resented me (for leaving her). That moment was a wakeup call. I decided to put my daughter before myself.”

When her daughter was 3, Karen got pregnant again. Her baby boy was diagnosed with autism when he was 1 year old. After Karen broke up with her boyfriend, he refused to help with their kids. “I needed to focus on my son’s special needs,” she said. “I lost everything. I had to pack up and move to California because I had family here. I needed help.”

Karen and her kids got to the Mission in October 2020. “They opened their doors to me and my children right away,” she said. “I felt so blessed when I arrived. I feel like the Mission was where God wanted me to be at this time in my life.”

She said she’s loved when women guest speakers were brought in. “It really empowers me. … It’s been such a good experience for me here because I’ve been able to meet other women and hear other women’s stories, which strengthens me.”

Karen wants to get her barber’s license and open a shop that focuses on giving haircuts to kids with special needs. She has always had a relationship with God, but said she’s gotten so much closer to Him since being at the Mission. “Since I’ve been here, I realize the importance of putting God first in everything that I do,” she said. “God is so big. A lot of time we don’t understand the ‘Why?’ in our life, but God knows what He is doing. We have to trust him.”

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