When I’m rich: Providence dreams in the Desert
A few days ago, Leticia, one of Sister Loretta Picucci’s students here at Providence in the Desert, said to Sister Loretta, “When I’m rich, I want to have a car like yours.”
Well, of course! Who wouldn’t want to have a well-maintained Toyota? It’s guaranteed to get you where you’re going. Surely the ultimate in luxury.
Leticia is the single mother of an extremely hyper-active four-year-old boy. She has tried to get him help through the school system, but it seems impossible. He is not yet in kindergarten or pre-K, and so does not qualify, even though he desperately needs the therapy before he bursts onto the pre-K scene.
Leticia’s modest goals are typical for our students. They want to improve their lives, but they are not trying to amass more than they need for their families.
We just arrived home from seeing the movie “McFarland, USA.” The story centers around a small town in the California Central Valley, near Bakersfield. The Central Valley produces a huge percentage of the year-round crops that feed our entire country and beyond every year. Nearly everyone in the town is Latino. The high school boys work in the fields with their fathers before and after school, and no one seems to have any thought that they might have a better future.
The Coachella Valley where we minister lies just an hour and a half from the Mexican border. Smaller than the Central Valley, it still produces a great deal of produce, including a large percentage of table grapes and virtually all the dates grown in this country. We figure that our families are about a generation ahead of the ones in the film. One of our Advisory Board members told us that as a child she worked in the fields after school. And when we first came to the Desert some 13 years ago, we learned that the previous school superintendant had not allowed the students to have their own books, because “they’re just going to work in the fields.”
Probably because of the work of Cesar Chavez, the eastern Coachella Valley has moved beyond these expectations. Children are not expected to do field work, and many entities are working hard to make it possible for high school students to attend and finish college. We at Providence in the Desert give their parents the opportunity to learn English at a time and place convenient for them. Our students want and expect their children to finish high school and even go to college.
If you go to see this film (and we hope you will) you will see the people working in the fields. That’s what we see all the time, and yes, it is that hard.
Our people here at Providence in the Desert go through a lot to make a better life for their families, and it is our privilege to help them in their struggle to break their boundaries and to give them hope.
(This originally was written as an e-newsletter update from Sister Carol Nolan. She sends updates from her ministry at Providence in the Desert several times a year. You can sign up to receive the e-newsletter here.
If you feel called to help us in our ministry of making life easier for some of the poorest residents of the United States, you can donate online here.)