February 13, 2019
A Story from Our Healthy Start Program: Natalia
Weddings are supposed to be a time of joy, celebrating with family and friends. For Natalia, her wedding also served as a reunion 10 years in the making.
“My brother got a visa and he (came) to walk me down the aisle,” Natalia, a client of EveryStep’s Healthy Start Program, explains. “I hadn’t seen him in 10 years.”
Natalia’s journey to Des Moines and later the Healthy Start Program began back in the early 2000’s when she left Mexico to escape an abusive relationship.
One of her nine brother’s lived in Iowa, so she made the decision to apply for a Visa and move to Des Moines.
While she had every intention of returning to Mexico after saving money, she was quick to find a cleaning job and eventually met her husband, Hector.
“At that time I didn’t drive—he was my ride. He took me where I needed to go,” Natalia said. “He invited me to church for our first date.”
Culturally, the two became married, explained Baya Maese, Natalia’s case manager with the EveryStep program, after moving in together. However, the wedding ceremony served as a legal marriage in the eyes of the church and state.
Over the years, Hector and Natalia have made a family. During that time, a friend pointed her in the direction of EveryStep’s programs, including the Women’s Empowerment Group, parenting classes, Hispanic Women’s Group, parent-child programing, pre-natal classes, and Stork’s Nest.
“Baya and [the program] have given me a lot: lots of advice, things I need for the baby like the car seats, baby wipes, the baby bathtub, and lots of information too,” Natalia recounts.
In addition to the classes, information, and materials, she has also received help in filling out large amounts of paperwork, such as those related to birth certificates, American and Mexican passports for the children, and the marriage license.
There are still obstacles that Natalia fears will complicate her children’s’ future.
Neither Natalia, nor her husband claim any status, and therefore live in constant fear of an encounter with the police or a government agency. Natalia confided that she had been waiting to be discriminated against, too, that she had been preparing for the inevitable.
“I’ve been going to ESL (English as a Second Language) classes but I feel like I’m not remembering anything,” she said laughing to herself, “I’ve been here a long time, but I don’t know English.”
But Natalia wants her children to maintain their cultural identity while simultaneously learning English. She would like to return home to her family’s farm in central Mexico, but wants what’s best for her family.
“The programs are a lot of a help. A big help,” she said, “It would be very difficult without the programs. Without the programs I would have had to spend more money that I didn’t have, too.”
As Natalia married the man of her dreams and father of her children. She was reunited with her family as her brother walked her down the aisle, and she continues to thrive.
If you’re a volunteer wanting to impact and change lives, a donor looking for a worthwhile cause, or a mother looking for assistance, regardless of status, nationality, language, ability, employment, or age, contact EveryStep Care & Support Services, located at 1111 9th St, Suite 320, Des Moines; (515) 288-0437.
This story is an edited excerpt of a piece written by Drake University student Brandon Losh