Ecuador: A Mother’s Fight to the End

30 April 2019

An Ecuadorian mother of three in Venezuela working for a better life for her children. (Josh Utter/Jesuit Refugee Service)

Like many, Luisa left Venezuela because of the economic crisis. Her family was directly impacted by the rising medical costs that prevented members of her family from receiving the medical treatment. Due to the inflated costs of health care, many relatives of hers died, including her sister who died of breast cancer.

Not long after her sister’s death, Luisa was diagnosed with cancer. Due to the high costs of chemotherapy, she began to sell all her household items. “As a single mother of three I couldn’t leave them as orphans… who would take care of them?” She eventually was left with an empty home. Her only possessions were a bed, a refrigerator, and her kids. When she sold her fridge, she realized that if she remained in Venezuela she would die. Ultimately, the selling of her fridge allowed her to receive the last dosage of chemo that she needed to adequately treat her cancer. However, despite improving health, Luisa realized that the economic situation in Venezuela was depriving her children of a future, so she left without a dollar and began her journey to Colombia to find work in Ecuador.


As a single mother of three I couldn’t leave them as orphans… who would take care of them?

She went days without eating as she journeyed across Venezuela and Colombia. “Many called me crazy… but I would tell them, ‘No, I’m not crazy. Just imagine if you were in Venezuela persecuted, threatened, hungry, losing hope, and not seeing a future for your daughters. I don’t want my daughters to have the mentality that their only hope is marriage. I don’t want to deny them an ice cream treat because I don’t have the money. They deserve more,” Luisa stated.

In Ecuador, she briefly reunited with the father of her youngest child, but facing domestic violence, Luisa searched for help. After she was referred to JRS Ecuador, Luisa was given a place to stay at a shelter in Quito which helped her get on her feet. “JRS gave me the strength I needed. They brought me calm and safety.” She added, “JRS helped move me forward. They fortified me for the journey.”

Luisa was staying at the shelter when she found out that her eldest daughter in Venezuela had appendicitis. Due to the current economic situation in Venezuela, this minor operation became a major expense — a “tragedy” as Luisa put it. Despite all the hours she had worked in Ecuador, she couldn’t afford the operation, so Luisa’s daughter was induced into a coma. Luisa had to work long hours in great anxiety, in order to send enough money to Venezuela for the operation. “My world collapsed, I wasn’t there for her. It felt like the end of the world!” After the operation and 20 days in a coma, Luisa’s daughter was able to call her and say “Mama, I miss you!”

Today, Luisa still resides in Quito. She awaits the day that she will be reunited with her daughters.

“I am grateful for all the help that I’ve received along the journey from people who don’t even know me, but cared for me as a fellow human being.”


JRS gave me the strength I needed. They brought me calm and safety and helped move me forward. They fortified me for the journey.

Mother’s Day is an important time to recognize mothers, yours and others around the world, who do so much to ensure better futures for their children. You can show your support to displaced mothers and the work they do around the world this Mother’s Day by sending a Mother’s Day Card of Hope through our Any Refugee program.