By: Gilberto Ramos Rivera
It is 10:45 p.m. on a silent Wednesday night. Everything is quiet and calm, when an insistent telephone call interrupts the peace of a calm home.
“Good evening” the owner of the house answered the call.
“Is this Mrs. Gloria?” a man asks.
“Yes I am” Gloria replies.
“It’s from the Family Department, do you have room in your home for two kids that were removed from their homes?” the man asks.
“Yes, I have room for them” Gloria answer.
“Well, excellent, we will be arriving at your home shortly” the man ended the call.
This is a common situation in Gloria’s house. “They (Family Department) only call and ask if she has room for removed children from their homes”, Gloria said.
Gloria is a housewife, retired from the closed down Bumble Bee plant, a tuna fish factory on the Mayaguez shore.
“I worked there for about 20 years. But when my second granddaughter was born, I decided to dedicate the rest of my life to my children”, she said with a big smile.
“My desire, when I was a girl, was to be a teacher. I played with my sisters, and I taught them how to write their names”, she said with a deep sigh.
Gloria, who is part of a family with 13 brothers, currently is the legal tutor of two kids.
“My passion was to teach, but this desire did not fulfill the economical needs of my family, so my brothers and I left the school and started working to help our parent sustaining our home.”
“I had to forgotten my passion for teaching, and dedicate my energy to helping my family as much as I could”, she said nostalgically.
Gloria was born in the late 1940’s. Historically in Puerto Rico these years were very difficult, specially with the economy. These years were very hard especially for families that lived in rural areas. It was very difficult for the family to give the best college education to their kids. “So I focused myself in work” she said, while she prepared a milk bottle for one of the boys.
She got married with Pedro Ramos. “When I met Gloria, she was a girl that took seriously her responsibilities. Today, I can tell you that she has the same commitment with these kids” Pedro said, hugging Gloria. Actually they have been married for 50 years.
“When I left my job at Bumble Bee, I found myself alone in my house. My day started as usual at 6:00 a.m., but by 12:00 p.m. all the work in the house was done” said Gloria.
By this time Gloria’s sons were already married and one of them was living in the United States. “I started to feel alone in my own house. Although I was a housewife with many chores I did not feel I was productive. Ironically I left my job to be more time in my house, and when this happens I felt unemployed” she says, while also is trying to sleep the youngest boy of the house, a 3 months very active baby.
While all these feelings are taken place; a neighbor approaches her, to offer a job opportunity. This person worked for Social Services Department, and was in charge of a foster home for removed children.
“She arrives at my house one day and makes me this offer (work for the Family Department)”, she said whispering because the baby was sleeping.
“At the beginning I was not convinced. But she insisted, so I told her I would think about it.”
During the following days Gloria visited the Social Services Department, looking for information. After hear all the requirements and responsibilities for the job, she decides to initiate the process.
“The requirements included to present a good conduct certificate, evidence of integrity, bill payments evidence among other things. Also I had to take trainings about the Puerto Rico mistreatment laws and the punishments, about the kinds of abuses and how to take care of these kids.”
Orlando Nieves, Social Worker for the mentioned department, said: “These kids cannot be left at any house. Is our responsibility to find excellent places and excellent people to take care of these special kids. Not everyone has the capacity of bring them a home.”
Following the protocol Gloria’s house was inspected to insure and guarantee that it was a secure home. In addition personnel from the Department interviewed the neighbors asking about the kind of person that she was.
“The process is complicated” said Gloria, “in my case all, with all the revisions and trainings, the process took about one year.”
After the entire process ended, quickly Gloria’s house was occupied by two brothers.
“I remember them with love, that moment was my first experience as a foster mom” she said whispering and drying the tears from her eyes.
From this moment, Gloria’s house is occupied all year. Every year two or three kids arrive while others leave the house. Over the years, 15 children found a home and a mom.
Miguel Ruiz, driver for the Social Services Department, said: “Daily in our country we see violence against the children. As a driver, I have been in situations where the police had to arrive with us to places where violence is more than evident.”
“Every time that we find people, who really love the kids and bring a peaceful home for them, we sleep in peace. These people for me are heroes.”
Gloria’s house, dimensionally, is not a big one. She does not have luxury or high cost decoration, but these things don’t make home a house.
“I don’t know how some people can hit and abuse of indefense creatures. Kids are a gift from God”, said Gloria.
In the neighborhood Gloria is also known for the “pasteles”. During all year she has “pasteles” in inventory. She is a member of the Pentecostal Church of Jesus Christ of Leguisamo, Mayagüez. Here she is the director of the missionary department.
“I think that God brings to everybody the opportunity to make good things. Some people take it and others do not. In my case I have the opportunity of teach, bring love and reform lives, and that’s what I do best.”