Maria’s Story, Ecuador

Maria

“I will never forget their stories and what they can teach us.”

Maria José Gomez de la Torre recounts her experiences with refugee women in Gayaquil, Ecuador:

Seeing a woman who is completely hopeless, even though her children are finally safe, crying profusely because they could not be with her on her birthday, are moments in life that you cannot forget. To cheer her up, the group draws a cake with candles on a paper, give her a craft made that day “wrapped as a present with an imaginary bow”, and sing her happy birthday, telling her you have someone here now, this is your place.

This professional experience as a psychologist crosses towards the personal; it leaves not academic or professional lessons, but life lessons. I was witness to a generosity that does not limit itself to material goods. When I began my work at the site, the challenge meant organizing a very diverse group of women interested in cooking classes and having spaces for discussion and recreation. As the months passed, the dynamics turned and, despite their differences, the women connected to one another, organized themselves, listened and respected each other; they could approach “the other” who was not violent. In this way, they began recognizing that in this space spoken by their written testimonies something transcendental could be built. For me, their testimonies were an accompaniment from the time when they were victims to being survivors and to recognising how they began taking different positions.

The group is unparalleled; it is carried by its own impulse, as shown in their name “Pa’lante con Esperanza” (Forward on with Hope). To be honest, the challenge of looking for crafts, potions, recipes, kids’ activities, preparing lectures for reflection and even the guidance sessions where I have also been able to share my fears, has turned into something I wholly enjoy in my job, in addition to getting to know new members and observing first meetings and last goodbyes.

Psychologist Maria Jose Gomez de la Torre

Humanitarian Assistant, Hebrew Organization of Assistance for Immigrants and Refugees, Guayaquil, Ecuador


1 family torn apart by war is too many

Learn more about our work with refugees at UNHCR.org