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By Agueda Martin

In her teen years, Nora Mendez Carreon (44) had to leave behind her studies to care for her terminally  ill father and aunt. In her low income family everyone had to contribute and she worked hard to help pay the bills. Eventually she began a family of her own and continued to care for her sister who suffers from schizophrenia.  A born caregiver, she’d wanted to further her studies and be able to serve the community but  supporting her family financially and giving them the care they needed left her without the time or resources her own education would require.

Then tragedy struck.  She lost all three children in an accident and, as if that weren’t enough, a year later lost her job as a telephone operator as well. With the economic downturn,  the job market in Chile is highly competitive.  At 40 years old job opportunities are extremely hard to come by. She just didn’t know if life had anything left for her.

Incredibly however, instead of allowing the pain and obstacles she faced hold her back, she decided that she’d start again. The tragedy in her life brought forth a desire to care for one of the most neglected social groups in Chile – the elderly in low income communities.  So Nora sold clothing, candy, or bread in the streets while she studied, anything to complete her dream.    She first took a foot health course with the municipality and then applied to FEDES for an elder care course.   In completion of her dream, her project was recently approved by the government and she and a partner will begin services soon after graduation.  She is also applying to attend university a few days a week in the near future.

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Nora says, “This course has been exactly the step up I needed to regain faith in myself.  The difference between FEDES and the other courses or vocational programs I’ve attended, was that in the other courses if I showed up or not, people didn’t really seem to care. Here the administration really gets involved with the students, holding them to a high standard. I could see they really cared about me, and put importance on me becoming professional in my skills.”  

Agueda Martin, one of the Project Managers of FEDES, a FCF Project in Chile contributed this story and photos.