My Story

Lorena Castillo

In (2008) I came left my two younger sister behind to go to the United States to overcome the poverty we had experienced after the death of my parents and older siblings when I was 10 years old.  As you can imagine as a child I did not know how to take care my little sisters or even myself. We were forced to live in a landfill with a group of other homeless kids, which lead me to decide to join a gang to survive and be able to care for my sisters and to move out of the third world and away from people who were addicted to drugs. Although I was able to find shelter for myself and my younger sisters after joining the gang, we still struggled to afford food and other basic necessities.  Luckily, one gang member wanted to help us and told me that his grandmother (Mrs. Touch) wanted us to go live with her. When life does not give many opportunities, you do not have options and take whatever is given to you. Thankfully Mrs. Touch treated us as her own family, but unfortunately she was struggling financially too and asked me to go live with her daughter-in law and leave my two sisters with her because she could take  better care of them than me. I did not like that idea because I felt they were my children. I cried at night thinking about them but I could still see them every Sundays and even sometimes during the week. The daughter in law did not like me so much. She wanted me to help with store and carried heavy clothes that they would sell. Since she did not have a room for me I slept with animals in the barn.

When I was 14 years old, I started working because Mrs. Touch was struggling with food and clothes, so I wanted to help her with my sisters. Even though I only made 500 Quetzales I like that I was able to help. In meantime, I started meeting people who were encouraging me to come to the U.S by saying things like:  “in the U.S you make lots of money and easy” “you are going to send 3 times more money that what you get now”. I did not know what to do because I did not have money to pay the guider person, and I did not know if it would be better to come by myself or bring my sisters with me. One of the gang members told me he knew people who would bring me to the U.S, and that he was going to pay for my trip, but my sisters must stay behind. Traveling from Guatemala to the U.S. would be too dangerous for such young girls, and I would not be able to adequately care for them. I left them with Mrs. Touch and it took me a month to travel from Guatemala to the U.S., which was a dangerous trip where I was cold, hungry, and alone for much of the time.  

In the U.S the mother, (named Olga) of the gang member who paid for my trip was going to be waiting for me and help me to adjust myself to the culture. Luckily, this happened she was very nice to me, at this point of my life she was angel that God sent me. The time we spend together was glorious for me. Until one day Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) showed up at the house we lived at and took all of us because we were undocumented people. The ICE officials took Olga away from me and she got deported to Guatemala and I never saw her again.

Here begins a new chapter in my life, I lied to the ICE people, I told them I was 18 years old. That is what people told me to tell them, so the ICE would deport me quickly to my country instead keeping me in jail until I turned 18 years old. While I was in the detention center, one of the ICE officer sexually abused me several times while I was there. I did not understand everything my abuser said to me at the time, but he continued to abuse me throughout my time at the detention center and made it clear that no one would believe me if I told on him. I was afraid he would kill me or that no one would believe me if I tried to tell anyone.  Eventually a person who was in the same detention center told me that I should tell the truth about my age because they actually could help me stay in the U.S. instead deporting to back to Guatemala.  So I told the ICE officers I was really only 16and they come to interview me, later on I got a lawyer who told me I would be able to stay in the U.S.  I was going to be sent to a youth center until they found a program that would help and foster parents that would be willing to help me. I stayed there for long time. I told the youth center that I have an uncle that I have in the U.S, but I did not have information on him the program found him somehow and he qualified for to go me to go live with him in Florida State. In the beginning, life looked good until one day he began to physically and sexually abuse me regularly. Also, he sexually trafficked me with people that I did not know he claimed the those men were his friends, but I noticed the they paid him. The amount of money did variety for man; I told him for several times I hated having sex with stranger man he replied “in life there are going to be things that we hated to do, but we must do them”. There were several times were he physically hit me because I refused to have sex with one of his customers or I cried in front them. After living with my uncle, a foster program helped me and they had a family that was willing to help me. I met the family, a single mother with a daughter and foster youth that the foster program was aware of, but the mother also had a son that lived in the house. She asked me not to tell the program because he did not have a place to stay. I understood and did not tell the program, and I never thought he would actually hurt or sexually abuse me. He did one day when I was alone with him in the house; he abuse of me twice, and the second time he threatened me with a gun. I was moved out of the house and I moved of state, and we filed a case against this person and won the case in the court.

I have been struggling for the longest time that I honestly do not remember when I started feeling hope again. I tried to killed myself twice because I was terrified to make the next step in my life. I did not want to get abused any more. I did not know English and I felt alone, like no one really understood what I felt inside. I felt unloved. My big motivations to keep going with life were my sisters. I did not want them to suffer of hunger, to go back to live in the third word, or for greedy and selfish people to sexually abuse of them. I did not want   them to go through what I went though. I want them to have someone who will listen to them at any time they want to talk and feel down. I had survived horrible situations in life, and yet today I am alive, happy, independent, and staying strong. In addition, the help the Bethany Christina Services gave me; there was always was someone to listing to me, giving me hopes again. The helped and supported that was provided to me to finished High School and graduated. The encourage to go to an university to educate myself, and the job I have now they helped to find it. They taught me how to submit an application. I am currently attending Western Michigan University, have junior status, am majoring in Criminal Justice and Spanish, and am on the Dean's list. I am working at a hospital, as patient transport, to help one of my sisters pay for school. They are alive and healthy.  One of my goals is to build an orphanage to help children in Guatemala by providing housing and educational opportunities. Children are the future and can have such a positive impact on society when they are guide with love and helped to get on the right path. I want to help provide those needs to those who are most vulnerable.                

 

 

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