Jaime Finds Peace at ESPERE

Jaime moved to the U.S. from Mexico fifteen years ago, and for those fifteen years he has lived with his long-time partner, who is now his wife. They now have a four-year-old daughter together. Like most relationships of ten years or more, things haven't been easy for Jaime and his wife. Conversations escalated into fighting and yelling, making life at home increasingly unpleasant for the whole family. Jaime explains that in Mexico it's not common for men to say "I'm sorry," so those weren't words that often succeeded an argument in their home.

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Jaime and his wife both agreed that they would try every avenue possible before separating or divorcing, and that's when they heard about our ESPERE workshop and decided to enroll together.

ESPERE, the Schools of Forgiveness and Reconciliation (Escuelas de Perdón y Reconciliación), is a workshop where participants learn how to manage conflict and process trauma, and learn the power of forgiveness. The ESPERE workshop is an integral component of Adelante's Adult Education program.

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Gina Bell, ESPERE Manager, co-facilitates the weekly sessions along with Norma Hernandez. "I am constantly inspired by the grit and determination of the ESPERE participants," explains Gina. "Those who are willing to show up, weighed down by trauma and fear, sadness and hurt; they arrive hopeful and willing to go deep, work hard, and turn inward." Whether someone has suffered severe trauma or they just want to improve their emotional intelligence, ESPERE is for everyone.

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Jaime didn't buy into ESPERE right away. He was the only man in the class, as not many husbands attend this workshop. "It's intimidating being in a room with all women." He honestly explains, "I came to the first two classes mad. I was the only man, why do I have to go? Second week, here again, what time is it?" But he stuck with it.

As the eight-week workshop progressed, Jaime and the other participants learned communication skills, told their personal stories in small trust groups, and did a lot of listening to each other. Jaime explains, "I learned many things from the women in the class. Something that really stuck with me was listening to my partners in my trust group when we exchanged experiences. Every woman tells her experience and that made me feel something special because I've never listened to stories like that in my life. Everyone has lived something different and I learn from everybody."

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Norma Hernandez, ESPERE co-facilitator, checks in with everyone as they break off into trust groups.

Norma Hernandez, ESPERE co-facilitator, checks in with everyone as they break off into trust groups.

Jaime says in the third week he started thinking that this workshop wasn't too bad. "Today is the last class, and now I feel like I'm going to miss everyone." He and his wife have decided to stay together. He says that now when they start to fight, they relax and remember "ESPERE," and he immediately feels more at peace. "We think about the class and the teachers and we stop. Now we have something that supports us." Jaime now hopes that more husbands will think about attending the workshop as well.

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It's graduation day in the ESPERE classroom and the space is filled with laughter and tears. The participants break off into their small trust groups for the last time, sharing tearful stories and long, embracing hugs. At the end of the class, one by one, the participants come to the front to receive their certificates of completion from Gina, followed by a celebratory meal of tamales, beans, coffee, and cake.

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Jaime takes a few more photos of himself and the other participants to remember the special day. "It changed my life and all of the people that live around me...my family, my community, everybody. It's important that everyone knows that ESPERE exists. I feel good now because I practice this in my life and try to be a better person. And when you look at the result, well, it's good. Because you did something positive for your life. The expectation is to make a better world."

Feed the soil, and the soil will feed the plant.

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Álvaro has been farming since he was a child in Mexico. For as long as he can remember, growing vegetables has been his true passion. He and his wife, Edna, immigrated to the U.S. over 20 years ago in search of a better life and more opportunities. They now own a small, sustainable farming operation on land that they lease in Beaverton, Oregon. Álvaro grows a beautiful array of vibrant, organic vegetables. He's especially known for his beets, carrots, cilantro, lettuce, and bell peppers.

When they first began successfully growing produce, they gave away all of their harvests to local churches. Although bringing in extra money for his family would be helpful, Álvaro began this venture simply because he loves doing it. But when they got the opportunity to sell their produce through our CSA and Distributor program, they realized that farming could not only be an enjoyable experience, but it could help support their family.

On Mondays, Álvaro and Edna carry large tubs of their freshly harvested produce into our CSA space. Álvaro gently sets down a few buckets of lush basil and a mouth-watering aroma fills the entire room. Edna peeks into the first tub to find perfect stalks of crispy kale. From here, the fresh herbs and vegetables will be distributed across Portland and Washington County communities. Some of the produce ends up in schools, restaurants, or small food businesses, while others get delivered to the doorsteps of our individual CSA members. It doesn't get more local than that.

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Liliana Morgan, our Distributor Sales and Marketing Coordinator, starts weighing vibrantly green tomatillos and plump lemon cucumbers. By connecting with local restaurants, schools, and CSA members in our community, Liliana ensures food grown by Latino-owned, sustainable farms gets out into the community.

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Liliana explains why she loves working at Adelante. "I love seeing how proud our participants are to be providing healthy food to members of the community, especially knowing that we focus on reaching low-income clients. For many of the farmers we work with, growing food and working with plants is not only a means of supporting themselves financially, but a healing practice through which they find great joy."

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Álvaro didn't always know the intricacies of sustainable agriculture, which can be complex and sometimes overwhelming when starting out. He knew he wanted to grow pesticide-free produce, but since the farming techniques he learned in Mexico involved using chemical treatments, he was struggling to keep pests off of his plants without using pesticides.

Then he heard about our Sustainable Agriculture class and he immediately signed up. Since Álvaro only speaks limited English, he says having the class be conducted in Spanish was a tremendous help.

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Alejandro Tecum runs our Sustainable Agriculture program where he teaches a 14-week class to local Latinos who aspire to own a sustainable farming business, or who would just like to start a vegetable garden in their back yard. In the class, he covers everything from how to maintain proper soil to how to market their final product. Alejandro explains, "In Sustainable Agriculture, soil is the most important component in the food production. Our motto is "feed the soil, the soil feeds the plant."

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"Sustainable Agriculture is important because through it we teach and show people how to grow healthy, delicious, and fresh vegetables. So while they are providing food for their families and high quality produce for their customers (if they have a farm business), they are also taking care of the environment." says Alejandro.

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Instead of using chemicals to keep pests away, Álvaro now plants flowers nearby that deter the pesky insects. Although his operation is small, he has his sights set on someday saving up enough money to buy his own farmland and turning his passion of sustainable farming into a full-time career.

The education Álvaro received in our Sustainable Farming class enabled him to take his love of gardening and turn that into the ability to help feed his own community, as well as support his family, all while using farming techniques that are kind to the earth. Much like taking the time to cultivate nutrient-rich soil in a garden, education will always be an invaluable investment in the future for budding entrepreneurs like Álvaro.

Meet Yanet and See How Produce RX Changed Her Life

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For many Latina women and their families, Produce RX, a program we offer in partnership with Virginia Garcia, is changing what they eat and the way they think about food. For Yanet (pictured below), this couldn't be more true. When Yanet's daughter passed away, she dealt with her grief by turning to unhealthy food. During this difficult time in her life, her weight went up to over 200 pounds. Instead of cooking healthy meals at home, her family ate takeout food about two to three times a week. Emotional eating had taken over Yanet's life. So when she heard about our Produce RX program, she jumped at the opportunity to get her family's health back on track.

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Latinos are disproportionately at risk for diet related diseases such as diabetes and obesity, and Produce RX is working to change that. Through cooking classes and vouchers for fresh produce at our Farmers Market, Produce RX is making healthy diets more accessible to low-income Latino communities in Oregon.

Like many Latina women, Yanet was worried that her family wouldn't be interested in eating a diet heavy in vegetables, and she wasn't sure how to cook them. But since taking the Produce RX cooking classes, she has gained the confidence to cook a healthy, balanced diet. And her husband and three daughters are excited about it as well. Her husband now brings mixed vegetables to work for lunch instead of fried meat. 

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Since Yanet's family lives on her husband's income, she says money can be tight. The vouchers for produce at our Farmers Market gives her the ability to buy local, organic produce. Now, her whole family enjoys trips to the weekly market. She says her family feels better now and they have more energy. They even have fewer trips to the doctor since they don't get sick as often. Yanet says she now has the tools necessary to battle emotional eating and keep her whole family's diet as healthy as possible. 

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119 individuals and 21 families have benefitted from the Produce RX program. Our qualitative research shows that the program has greatly reduced health care spending for participants. Thanks to supporters like you, programs like Produce RX are changing lives.

For Yolanda, School Wasn't Always Easy (VIDEO)

When Yolanda was a young girl, her first language was Spanish. So when she entered Kindergarten and everyone spoke English, everything from learning to making friends was a struggle. But she was determined to do well in school so that she can make a difference in the world. She dreamed of doing big things with her life, including having a professional career, so she couldn't let her obstacles stop her. Watch our newest video to see Yolanda's amazing journey. 

Click here to support our life-changing Chicas Youth Development program. 

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