Your support helped Hortensia turn childhood trauma into a teaching career

She inspired the crowd with her courageous story
at our Fiesta of Hope.

Hortensia Mandujano, a graduate of our Adult Education program, now shares her love of learning as a Teacher's Assistant in our preschool. 

My name is Hortensia Mandujano and I want you to know how grateful I am to be here. I’m here because you support Adelante Mujeres. I’ve made a lot of changes in my life. And you made some of those changes possible. Because of you, I have the courage to be here this evening to tell you my story.

Today I am doing what I never believed possible. I’m doing the most exciting, rewarding work you can imagine. And I love it.

But before I tell you about that, I want to tell you how I got here.

I come from a very large family. I’m the youngest of 12 kids. I don’t remember much about my childhood, but I do remember the day my mother died. 

I was 4 years old. 

She died from an asthma attack. She was knitting a scarf. Then she started to cough, and then to wheeze. We didn’t have much money so she didn’t have an inhaler. 

When the asthma attack began, my oldest brother ran to town to see if he could find an inhaler, but no one in town had one. So he caught a taxi to take my mom to a hospital in a larger town an hour away.

My mom didn’t make it. She died, sitting beside my brother, in the taxi. I remember that day very clearly. It’s the earliest memory I have of my mother.

After she died, my older sisters took care of me. They didn’t treat me badly, but they weren’t very kind either. One sister who took care of me for a long time already had her own children. I think she treated them better than me. She gave them the best food and gave me the leftovers. For many years I was angry at her and at my other siblings, and my aunts and uncles. No one ever hugged me or said kind words to me. This lack of affection made me a cold person.

By the time I was 17, I was living alone, studying and working. I studied to be a rural teacher in the Mexican countryside. I love music and dance, so this is what I taught in a very tiny school for five families. My students were from 5 to 12 years old. I loved this work, but I was very much alone. I was so lonely I cried every night.

When my mother died, my father was here in Oregon. He was a bracero, a guest worker. He worked in a nursery in Forest Grove. He came home to Mexico for the funeral to be with us, but then he left again. He had to leave so he could support us. Later my older siblings came to Oregon. My sister-in-law told me I could come and stay with her. So I came to Oregon and I worked in a nursery, making Christmas wreaths. I liked the work, but I felt like I could do more with my life.

Then I got married and had kids. I loved being with my kids but I was very frustrated because I didn’t feel like I could help them very much.

One summer I was picking blueberries and a friend told me about Adelante Mujeres. She told me about all the classes I could take in Adelante’s Adult Education Program. I thought, “Wow! I really want to go back to school.”

I enrolled in the program and I learned so much. I learned English, I got my GED, and I learned how to help my kids with their homework. I learned to speak out loud in class and to trust my own voice. I gained confidence in myself.

I also learned how to forgive. In the ESPERE class on forgiveness and reconciliation I learned to stand in my sisters’ and brothers’ shoes. I came to realize how hard it must have been for them to lose their mother. This helped me to understand why they were not very warm with me. They were still young too. They were growing up themselves. In the class, I was finally able to see that they had suffered too. I was able to forgive them, and grow closer. We’re an interesting family. We love each other very much, but we don’t know how to show it.

Because of ESPERE, I am now able to show my affection for my family.

So, now I want to tell you what I am doing today, that I love so much. I am a Teacher’s Assistant. I work in Adelante Mujeres’ Early Childhood Education Program. I get to spend every day with 8 wonderful little kids. I have such a good time teaching the children. And they teach me every day, too. I’m also taking classes online and going to trainings.

I never thought it would be possible, but now I believe that one day I will be a really good teacher. I want to provide my very best to the community. That’s why I need to continue to study and learn. To help children and other parents grow, I need to keep growing myself.

Perhaps since I didn’t receive the care and warmth I needed as a child, I want to make sure the children in my class get all the love they deserve. When I was a child I just wanted to know that everything was going to be okay, that no one was going to hurt me. I wanted someone to recognize my feelings and let me know I was loved. As a mother I have prayed that my children’s teachers would help them feel at home and safe in their classroom. I prayed that their teachers would be kind to them and show them care.

Now I have this amazing opportunity to do this for other children. It’s very painful for young
children to be separated from their mom or dad. It’s my job to make sure they know that everything will be okay, that no one will hurt them, that they are safe with me. I value each child’s feelings and honor their personality.

This is the greatest gift that you have made possible, for me to pass on love and care, and set my students on the path to a happy, full life.