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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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."