A Mother’s Strength and Sacrifice

As a mother of six, Cecelia committed to giving her children a chance at a better life, even if it meant making a difficult choice.

By Kellie

Shoulder-to-shoulder, we sat with Cecelia on the stone schoolhouse steps of a village in the hills of Peru. At thirty-seven years old, she was a confident mother of six. She smiled freely while rocking back and forth, soothing the infant that slept swaddled on her back.

The baby, Johnedison, stirred in his slumber, and Cecelia shifted to help him sleep a bit longer. She told us that the prenatal vitamins helped her to feel stronger with this last pregnancy than with her previous pregnancies, and that Johnedison was born larger than his five older siblings. Another meaningful benefit was that Cecilia was able to work during her pregnancy – a critical factor as the family recently took out a loan to buy a home in town.

In the field stretching toward the horizon, the backs of workers arched toward the swaying crops. With light in her eyes, Cecelia pointed out her husband among them. Cecelia and her husband met when they were young, and built a life on the rugged hillside together. Both parents work to provide for their six children. While her husband labors in the field and on the Inca Trail, Cecelia proudly serves as a community health worker, or Qhali as the locals call them. A Qhali holds a position of respect and honor in her village. As a Qhali, she is able to provide basic medical care, advice, and aid to her community. She also helps recommend practices that maintain cleanliness in the home.

Later in the day, we hiked down the steep, wet mountain to visit Cecelia's house. One of her younger daughters was pleased to have visitors. The spirited girl wove among us as we toured their humble hillside home. Cecelia's passion for a tidy space clearly extended to her own house. In the garden, she kept small, orderly rows of spinach and lettuce; in the kitchen, an Adobe cabinet sheltered cold goods arranged in a neat row. She pointed out these goods, explaining that the family had to purchase more meals this season, as a recent freeze destroyed most of their crops. The goods standing on the shelves were meager: potatoes, bagged rice, a few canned beans. 

As we complimented her home, we asked after her older children. At this, Cecelia paused. She then explained that her eighteen, sixteen, and thirteen-year-old children live alone in the new home in town that she and her husband recently purchased. They bought the home to give her children a chance at a better life. Her own father died when she was young and her family struggled to survive on the income of one parent. Cecelia and her husband made the decision to have the oldest children live in town, for the hillside schoolhouse only offers a primary and limited secondary education. In order for them to receive further education, Cecelia knew they had to move into town. Through her sacrifice, her children will have career opportunities not available to those who live on the outskirts. 

Her youngest children will continue to attend the local primary school. When they are ready for further education, Cecelia will send them to join their older siblings in town. One day, she hopes to move to the new home so she can live there, too. But for now, she must continue to work here so that her family can afford to pay off the loan. No sorrow shadowed her face as she shared these dreams; instead, her face conveyed the hopeful courage which has enabled her to imagine a better world for her children.