The sound of a cheerful song, of deep laughter emerging from the wounds of an equally profound pain, of a past marked by fear lived on the streets without a home or a place to go. María Elvis Gabriela smiles in front of the screen with a proud look; it’s the rebirth of a woman who has found peace. 

The faith and the love that kept me going

Hello, my name is María Elvis Gabriela. I’m 26 years old, from Yaraquuy, Venezuela, and a single mother of three children. If I had to describe myself in a few words I would say that I’m a calm person who enjoys working and helping others. I like to laugh, listen to music, and keep a positive attitude no matter the challenges.

My story is not unique. Many Venezuelans face the same struggles: economic instability, poverty, and the fear of losing everything and not having a home.

My life was tough before finally coming to San Vicente de Paúl project. Poverty forced me to leave my home and travel to different countries; first Colombia and Ecuador and then Peru. Leaving everything behind was not easy, but if there’s one thing life has taught me, it’s that one must move forward and leave the past behind.

Before finding a new home, I had no roof over my head for quite some time. It was a terrible feeling; I was trapped and scared. I kept asking myself: “What am I going to do now?“. I could not stop crying because there was so much uncertainty for my children and me and it was all so overwhelming. Being homeless was a bitter experience. I had to rely on a friend, which brought its own set of difficulties and problems. Living with her and her partner was tough, but with God’s strength, I endured. What kept me going were my children. There were times when I thought, “I can’t go on,” and then I’d see my children, giving me the strength to keep on going and fight to reach my goals. 

Thankfully, The Villa San Vicente de Paúl project came into my life. Slowly, they changed my thoughts for the better. I am grateful to God that I connected with these amazing people who helped me secure the home I’m in now. The project transformed my mindset and the lives of my children, both physically and mentally. They are much calmer now. Thanks to all of the help, I achieved things that seemed impossible before. After all, I just want the basics of life for my children: a bed, a roof, their toys, and clothes, and having these little things is a real blessing. In the future, I want to be an entrepreneur, owning my business in commerce, jewellery, or a beauty salon.

My little house has helped me regain dignity and stability, teaching me to be an independent woman. It taught me to keep fighting despite the hardships of life, always with my head held high and the enthusiasm to keep moving forward. That’s what truly matters.

My message to everyone facing challenges is to keep moving forward and never stop. There will be problems, but you have to keep pushing forward, saying, “I can do it.” From my experience, I can tell you that you need to find a way to solve it; nothing is easy. Always try and hold onto the belief that you can. Trust in God blindly and keep fighting.

I know there are people like me who need a peaceful place to live with their children and my message to those who can help is that it is so important that assistance reaches those in need. Not only Venezuelans but also Peruvians and anyone else facing such challenges. It would be wonderful if the government could collaborate by building houses to provide shelter for more people.

Thanks to God and the people I connected with, I am now at Villa San Vicente de Paul and feel so much more at ease. I have a part-time job and I feel calm and safe with my children. Faith, tranquility, and the support of good people have been crucial in overcoming all the challenges I have faced and these past 17 months here have brought so much stability and happiness to my life.