|Arlaine Cervantes, founder|
Between the age of 4 and 18 my life was lonely, insecure, erratic and dangerous as I passed through a series of public institutions where the authorities thought I would be safe. They included an orphanage, a foster home, a Catholic workhouse/school* and several juvenile detention centers until I was twice incarcerated at the state institution for girls in Oregon.
When I look back, I know that I survived and became the person I am today because of three caring adults who thought me worthy, who singled me out and focused their undivided attention on me and, who, in different ways, challenged me to fight against the odds. These people became the most powerful to influence me as a child and it was because I wanted to please them for their efforts that I mustered up the strength to fight against the odds when life was most difficult and often seemed hopeless.
Forty years later in 2004, as a direct result of the powerful mentoring I’d received, I founded Niños del Lago where, every year, thousands of at-risk, impoverished Guatemalan children will receive focused mentoring by a senior Guatemalan university student/role model who will encourage them to stay in school and believe in their own power.
And so, the cycle of mentorship continues and I’ve no doubt but that in the future, many of the graduates of our Niños del Lago program will reach out to inspire other children.
I shall never forget Judge John Holman, Dr. Paul Muno, and Miss Margery McBride – all who believed in me, challenged me and inspired me to be strong. Sadly, it is too late to thank them but, if I could, I’d ask them who had inspired them to become such generous, strong, and loving human beings.
*For all intents and purposes, St. Rose Academy in Portland, Oregon was a unpaid workhouse which seemed to exist solely to crush the spirits of little girls. To understand what it was like at St. Rose I suggest watching the film, The Madelaine Sisters.
**For those who might doubt the power of brief mentoring experiences, in every case my mentors focused on me briefly and for very short periods of time.
I would like to pass the baton on to