Providing for My Family

I went to work at age 14 in Guatemala, but didn't make enough to support my family. I immigrated to the U.S. and am now in foster care and going to school, preparing to work and make more money.

by Juan Danilo Alvarez

I am proud to have been able to provide financially for my mother and sisters starting when I was 14 years old in Guatemala.

When I was 13, my father returned to Guatemala after being deported from the United States. One month after reuniting with us, he began to physically and verbally abuse my sisters, my mother, and me. He didn’t help with expenses either. My mom worked in the field every day from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and still did not have enough money. I was in school and felt guilty that I could not do anything to help my family financially.

On October 31, 2016, the school year in Guatemala ended and I left school altogether to start working with my uncle. My mother became sad and asked me if I wanted to continue studying. I answered yes, but the expenses were too much and we did not have any money to pay them. She replied that if my decision was to work, it was fine with her.

I went to work with my uncle as a trucker, bringing glasses, plates, and household items to Guatemala City and other cities in the country. I earned 150 quetzals (about $20) every week. What I earned went to my mother to buy necessary items for the house, but not for things like clothes or to save.

I worked with my uncle for two years, but the money was not enough. My dad was still abusing us. I told my mom, “I want to immigrate to the United States.” She was sad. She looked me in the eye and asked, “Are you sure?”

I told her I wanted to go to the U.S. so that I could earn more to support the family. She replied that if that was my decision, she would support me. A month later, I left home to come to the United States. I felt a deep joy that in the United States I could provide more financial support to my mom and my sisters.

My Experiences Make Me

After a 22-day journey, I arrived in the United States. I was detained by immigration agents in Phoenix, Arizona. They asked me questions and sent me to a shelter the next day. I spent three months in the shelter and then they sent me to New York City to a foster care agency called the Jewish Child Care Association (JCCA). I have been in care at JCCA for 10 months. I am proud to help my family back home and here.

I am the person that I am because of my experiences. If I had not left school, started working, and crossed the border, I would not have had the opportunity to live in New York City and attend high school. Thinking about my job as a trucker also makes me feel happy because although I did not make much money, my mom said “thank you,” and that told me I was making a difference.

This pride has also helped me to feel more secure and prepared me for working here in the United States. Since I worked before and learned quickly, I think I can do it here as well. Being a trucker has helped me to be good with directions and not get lost so easily. I accomplished all this when everything was more difficult, so I’m confident that I will be able to continue improving my life now that I’m here in the U.S.

I felt a deep joy that in the United States I could provide more financial support to my mom and my sisters.
Explore All Topics