One of many food insecure families that benefit from Feeding America West Michigan’s services is Guadolupe Ferrer, 49, and her seven children. She is a hardworking and loving mother who has done her best to provide for her children but has hit some bumps along the way, like many families do. She is sharing her story to demonstrate how Feeding America West Michigan has been instrumental in allowing her family to thrive.
Guadolupe is a Mexican native who came to America at 17 hoping to create a better life for herself. At the age of seven, she began working on her father’s farm. She took care of animals and harvested fruit, until the age of 12 when she got a job at a sewing factory. After three years, she went back to work on her father’s farm until he sold it. Afterwards, she worked various jobs as a cook and a salesperson.
Guadolupe was only able to attend school through the fifth grade, and the majority of the money she earned as a child went towards her brothers’ education. Guadolupe realized early in life that she couldn’t live out her life’s full potential in Mexico. She could never support herself on such meager wages, and she resolved to remove herself from the abusive home her parents created.
When she arrived in the United States, Guadolupe lived in Chicago until she met and soon married another Mexican native who came from similar circumstances. Together, they moved to Michigan and started their lives. While working as a fruit harvester at the age of 24, Guadolupe had her first baby boy, Christian. Their other two sons, Edgar and Jaycee, followed in 1995 and 1997, respectively.
At first, it was a happy marriage; but things soon changed. Guadolupe found herself as the sole provider for the boys, and soon their home became dangerous. She yet again found herself a target of domestic abuse. In the face of unspeakable trauma, Guadolupe persevered once again by fleeing from her husband and home in order to protect her children. From that point on, she worked hard to provide for her three young boys but was, once again, faced with hardships along the way.
Two years later, Guadolupe met and fell in love with another man. They married soon after and had their first son in 2002. She then welcomed her last boy in 2004, followed by her only little girl in 2008. Her second husband was from Guatemala but had been in America for many years. In 2008, after a 10-year relationship, he told her he was going home to visit his family, and never returned. Their children were still very young; she tried to reach him but quickly learned that he was not coming back.
After having to run from her first husband and being abandoned by her second, Guadolupe had six children to provide for on her own. Since that time, she has also adopted her nephew that needed a home.
Although the odds were against her, she refused to give up. Guadolupe worked hard through various jobs over the course of the next 10 years to provide for all seven of her children. She said, “I’ve been working two jobs all my life.” At one point, she was working 80 hours each week. After that, she consistently put in 12 hour days, six days a week, until medical issues recently rendered her unable to work.
Although Guadolupe did everything she could to provide for her children’s needs, it wasn’t always enough. When it wasn’t, her community had resources available to fill the void. One resource that has made a difference in their lives are Feeding America West Michigan mobile pantries. Guadolupe spoke about how there has always been a mobile pantry distribution close by when she needed it. Recently, she has been attending the monthly mobile pantry at Parkview Elementary with her daughter, Amy, who attends the school. Guadolupe expressed how big of a difference it makes for them. She talked about how without Feeding America West Michigan as a resource, there would be times they would struggle to find food.
The close-knit family of eight live together to this day. With medical issues standing in her way of her working, Guadolupe’s eldest sons work hard to keep up with the family’s bills. They saw how hard she worked over the years to provide for them, so they took over and began caring for the family just as she has always done. Guadolupe said that her children will often tell her, “you’re my mom and my father, forever.” Each year they celebrate her on Mother’s and Father’s Day. These celebrations are a meaningful tribute to her resiliency, which reminds her that the strength and determination to persevere comes from within.
Story written by Molly Kooi, Communications Specialist