Susana's Story


Growing up, I witnessed my mother getting abused mentally and physically by my alcoholic father. After my parents decided to separate I kept in contact with my father. It wasn't the same anymore, deep down I had so much hate towards him.

Before becoming a single mother of three children and receiving constant beating from my father, my mother was affectionate, patient, and present in our lives. As time passed she slowly became unrecognizable. As a result of my fathers actions my mother became indifferent to her surroundings. She hardly ever smiled. Heavy sadness filled her soul.

After they separated she was never home and often seem to avoid it. She used alcohol and clubs as an escape from reality, which would often leave me to care for my sisters. My childhood was cut short. I had to grow up in such a small amount of time. All the stress was laid upon me. Even though my parents were no longer living together they would still argue.

She was always frustrated and would take her anger out on me, I was her punching bag. I wasn't content and school seemed like the only place I could feel comfortable. But as the problems at home worsened, focusing in school became quite challenging. I would sometimes struggle in school because I would not have the help I needed. My mother was always working and the language barrier didn't make things easier.

Weeks passed and the absence of my father didn't seem like a problem at all . It hadn't hit me until this one day at school they were having an event where everyone’s father was suppose to come in and eat lunch with their child.

I remember not wanting to go to school that day. I forced myself to go. My mother told me that she would gladly eat lunch with me that day. I didn't want her to go. I thought I was going to be judged or going to be looked at weirdly if I were to take my mother so I quickly said no, that it was just meant for fathers to go, not for mothers.

I was jealous of my other friends because unlike me they had a father that loved them so much. I wished my father loved me the same. I wished he would've spent more time with me and would've just simply been there for me but he never was. I felt lonely at times. It felt like my mother was never there and my father, just never was. I had no one to talk to. At this time in my life I didn't know God at all.

After quite some time we decided to move to this neighborhood in California where I met some great neighbors. They later became my closest friends. I considered them my sisters. I liked to sleepover frequently and go over to their house to play just to get away from home. I noticed something different that always stood out to me. Every night before going to sleep they would pray. I didn't know what that meant or why they would do it.

I remember asking them about it and them telling me about God. One night I decided to give it a try. So I prayed. I prayed to know more about him. I wanted to know who he was and if he was as great as he sounded.

The next day I found myself crying on the stairs asking why I lived this way and how fed up I was with everything. This lady from church taped on my shoulder and asked why I was crying and I remember telling her that it was because my mother had gotten mad at me. She invited me to go to her church. God had heard my prayer and my faith grew! She would always give me rides and invite me over to her house. I will always be thankful that she was a part of my life.

By going to church it gave me hope and helped me understand my mother better. And even though she was stressed and angry most of the times I knew that she loved us and that she worked long hours just for us.

Unfortunately I had to move. Georgia was going to be our fresh start. My mother was already in a new relationship which I didn't approve of at the end. At first he was like the father I never had until he almost sexually abused me. I decided to keep quiet until he left our lives for I was scared of what could happen.

After being in Georgia for some months my mother became single again. We currently lived in Huntington Creek with my aunt. I met a girl there, named Vanessa.  We became really close friends. She introduced me to the Presencia after-school program and we would attend it whenever we could. We would do our homework and help out with the program sometimes.

When we started going to high school we became leaders! I enjoyed interacting with the kids even though they were annoying, most of the time. I also met great people like Ruthie and Ian. They were always very supportive, caring, and trustworthy people and still are till this day.

As one of the leaders in the after-school program Ruthie would ask me if I was willing to help her out with the booth sometimes at festivals and events. She became a role model for me. I love how well she commits herself to other people.

I know that someday I will be helping people too. Maybe not in the same way but I know that is something I will be doing. I always liked helping her out with the booth whenever she needed my help. It helped me get out of my shell and interact with different people. Also share some awesome information about the non profit.

Growing up I had faith in God but it slowly started to fade away without me noticing. I was invited to Open Table by Ruthie. I didn't really like churches. I always tried to avoid going. I remember crying and making a big fuss about it when my mom would want to take me. I would go to Catholic and Christian churches and none of them would meet my expectations. I disliked  going to church, I never understood anything so I wouldn't see the point of going to one.

The churches I had gone to were filled with people that would go there to gossip, judge, or were just really dramatic. I decided to give church another try and so I went to Open Table. It was so different from all the other churches I had gone to. It was so diverse. And for the first time ever I felt comfortable being in a church.

I started going to church almost every Sunday, well whenever laziness would not take over me. Going to church helped me a lot. It helped me forgive. I forgave my father for what he did to us. I learned that everyone makes mistakes and just like God forgives us I should forgive others as well. Even if they hurt you terribly and all they did was cause pain. I can't say I still talk to him. I've lost contact with him due to the fact that he's thrown his life away for alcohol. Some people just never seem to change.

After all, moving into the Huntington Creek apartment complex and going to the Presencia tutoring program, or as the kids call it “Ruthies”, has changed my life. It really has.

I served on staff with Presencia as Tutoring Director in 2015, and as a board member in 2016 and 2017. I believe that programs like these should be supported. Tutoring and mentoring programs provide kids with positive and healthy alternatives. It prevents them from making bad choices that would later lead them through the wrong path. It helps them complete their homework and kids receive the help they need.

They also get to interact with other kids . It might also help them escape from problems at home for a little while. They get to spend their time in a healthy way. I know for a fact that it has helped me and other kids in all the ways I just mentioned. And on Sundays some kids from the Presencia get rides to church. 

I'm just so glad that I'm able to help them out in anyway, just how I was helped when I needed it the most. We might think that we are not making a big difference but we are. And knowing Ruthie and Ian has changed my life and I thank God for placing not only them, but many other great people in my life. I'm so grateful.