From our Annual Report: Finding Freedom

When Selene, an immigrant from Mexico, married Luis and moved to Ohio, she thought her dream of normal life in America had begun.

But Luis isolated her at home, did not allow her to buy food or clothing for her children, and abused her.

Selene was just beginning to learn English and having no one to talk to other than Luis, who belittled her efforts, she felt even more alone. She knew that this was not what she wanted her life to be, but she didn’t know where to turn.

Her daughter, then in primary school, came home with an answer one day. “Mom, my friend belongs to this group, Proyecto Mariposas. It’s all moms and daughters like us… learning to speak English and learning to get along in our new country. I want to join – and I want you to join, too!”

That is how Selene met the Dominican Sisters of Peace Associate Yahaira Rose, founder of Proyecto Mariposas and Director of the Martin de Porres Center, a community outreach and retreat center. Meeting Yahaira was the beginning of Selene’s new life.

The moms and daughters in Proyecto Mariposas gather regularly for food, learning, and fun, creating a community of friends with not just a common language, but an immigrant experience much like Selene’s own.

“I thought I was the only person in Columbus who spoke Spanish!” Selene says. “Meeting these people was a gift!”

Selene learned that the sadness and isolation that she was feeling was not normal.

She met with a therapist who serves the families of Proyecto Mariposas as well as Rising Youth, a ministry of the Dominican Sisters of Peace that offers academic assistance and violence prevention services for local Latinx youth.

She also registered for classes at the Dominican Learning Center. Adriana Johnson, ESL Program Coordinator at the Center, says “Selene was so focused! She wanted to pass all four GED tests as quickly as possible – and she accomplished her goal. She also wants to motivate others and promote our program. She even meets with our current learners to motivate them.”

Ultimately, Selene determined that the healthiest thing she could do for her family was to get Luis out of their lives. It was ugly and difficult, but her newfound determination was bolstered when her son, Alex, came to her after she called the police to keep her husband from assaulting the two of them. “Mom, I am so proud of you,” he said. “You did what you had to do – you kept us all safe.”

It took Selene just four weeks to obtain her GED at the Dominican Learning Center. She has a new job, her children live in a safe place, and she is studying to obtain her US citizenship through a program offered by the Martin de Porres Center.

Yahaira Rose says, “Selene has a great spirit! I love working with her and her kids. She is determined and has great potential. I can’t wait to work with her in other capacities and celebrate her successes in our community.”

“God has been so good to me…he is truly my best friend,” Selene says. “My friends at my church, Yahaira, the ESL teachers at the Dominican Learning Center, the lawyer I met through the Martin de Porres Center – they helped make my life better. I have my kids, my place, my job, and I hope that I can be brave for the next woman who needs help… that I can be the friend that I found by coming to Proyecto Mariposas, to Yahaira, and to the Dominican Sisters of Peace.”

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