My mom died of cervical cancer when I was 3 years old. She was 37. After she passed, I lived with my dad and my grandma.
My grandma sold tortillas, and I rarely attended school because I had to help her. My dad worked the fields, cutting wood and any other odd job he could get. He always came back to the house drunk. Despite his abusive behavior, my grandma told me I should obey him. After all, she’d say, ”he’s the father God’s given you and it would be a sin to disrespect him.“ My grandma always treated him like a king. He was infallible in her eyes.
I hated being close to him when he was drunk. He always insulted me. He would say horrible things about my mother too. My grandma forced me to cook and take care of him – even when he was so drunk and mean.
When I was 8 years old, my grandma went to sell tortillas and left me waiting for my dad to come home. I knew he’d eventually arrive, drunk and angry. That night I made him dinner, and when I took him to bed, he started to tell me "You're such a little whore just like your mom. If I see you with a man I swear I kill you. “
Then he started to touch me. He took off my clothes and he raped me. When he finished, he told me “Now I'm the only one who can ever touch you.“
I was sad and confused after it happen. My grandma was the only one I could tell, but when I did tell her, she became really angry with me. She said you’re a little liar just like your mother and no one will ever believe you. If you ever tell anyone that story again, I’ll kick you out of my house for good!”
When I was 13, I got pregnant - with my father’s baby. I had my first child when I was 14. My grandmother, so angry about how I was “whoring around with all the boys” kicked me out of the house. I lived on the street without anyone's help for quite some time after. I was forced to take care of a baby boy that I never wanted. I was very angry and abusive. I blamed him for the way people treated me - like a diseased prostitute.
When my son grew up and started to work, he left me. I have not seen him again, and I don’t want to see him. Now, I live in another community. Alone. My dad never faced any consequences for what he did, and my grandmother always took care of him. When I heard he died, I felt happy.
Carmen is the name we’ll give to the woman who shared this story at our event in Momotombo, Nicaragua. She told us “I came to get tested today because I'm afraid of having cancer, but honestly, if I have cancer I'd rather just kill myself then to do anything about it.” We share this tragic story as just one example of many women we’ve encountered who have been sexually abused by their parents or relatives. In Nicaragua, most are never punished for the irreparable, generational damages they have caused. It is so common for us to hear these stories of abuse at our health events that I sometimes think it was merely a stroke of luck not to have been raped as well. Its January 2018, and we [women] still do not have the ability to express ourselves, protect ourselves from our own families, make choices about our own bodies. Our rights are not respected and abusers are not punished. They still teach us to treat men as our superiors, and boys are still raised to be kings. This is life in rural Latin America.
My name is Maryuri Salmeron. When I was little I loved watching nurses and doctors help people. So I said to myself, ”one day I'm going to be a nurse!“ and now I am.
I consider myself a humble person, quiet and reserved. I don’t have many friends, but the friends I do have are sacred to me. I give them my support in whatever they need.
Studying nursing has not been easy. You need to have a big heart and a lot of patience to face the everyday challenges. However, after the long days at University, I always felt that the work was worth it and believed that one day I would see the results of my effort. That filled me with satisfaction.
In 2013 I completed my required social service in Nagarote and participated in a program at the University to complete my training. Yet after getting my degree I could not find a job related to my career, so I ended up working in a supermarket. It was not what I wanted, but I always had hope of finding something that would fulfill my expectations as a nurse one day.
Finally that day came when The Lily Project posted an ad on Facebook. They were looking for a nurse for their cervical cancer prevention program. While it seemed like a stretch, I sent my resume because I wanted to be a part of the work they were doing in the rural communities. I was so thankful when I was offered the job.
In the beginning, the work at The Lily Project was challenging because I’m so quiet. The job required that I speak and teach in front of many women in the community! Soon, I lost the fear of teaching and I began to enjoy the opportunity to talk to women about their rights and taking care of themselves. Now, it is natural for me. I greet them, make jokes and, most importantly, give them the confidence they need and deserve so they can change others in their communities. I feel so content with this work.
I really enjoy being with the women who come to our events, examining them, talking to them, listening to their stories and being part of their lives. Prevention is the key to stopping this cancer and it is the beginning of showing love to ourselves, and to our families.
Team Leon! But mostly the more than 5,200 women and families this represents.
As we started the year, each team had a goal to screen 2,500 women for cervical cancer in 2018 with a bit of an incentive - the team with the highest number of completed quality screenings by the end of September would win a trip to our board member’s awesome beach house in Florida. But then the unrest started and everything changed…Lily’s ability to provide health screenings and to travel outside of Nicaragua became much more difficult. So we lowered our expectations, changed the travel location to a beautiful beach town, San Juan Del Sur, on the pacific coast of Nicaragua (just above Costa Rica) and Anielka encouraged the teams to just do their best.
Yesterday was the long-anticipated Announcement Day!
Team Matagalpa led by Adilia Navarro with new teammate Dr. Arelys Fonseca, Sarahi Baltodano, RN, and Driver Efrain Montoya announced they have already surpassed their annual goal - screening 2,600 women so far in 2018. Such an amazing accomplishment!
Team Leon, led by Hortencia Gonzalez with Maryuri Salmeron, RN, Yarelis Rojas, RN and driver Michael Rodriguez announced that despite being shut-down for a month due to the unrest in the city they have screened 2,675 women to-date! Additionally, 3 of the 4 women diagnosed with cervical cancer this year in Leon are Lily’s clients – a result so incredible that the regional Ministry of Health has requested Lily’s help in training MINSA staff.
Obviously what is most important is the impact Lily is having on the health of women in Nicaragua. But what can’t be overlooked is the impact Lily is having on the team. Hortencia shares (translated):
A year ago I became Team Leader of León and started a whole new stage of my life. Leadership is something I rarely heard about until I started working with The Lily Project a few years ago. As the leader of the mobile clinic in León, I had many expectations and fears when starting the position, but as time has passed and thanks to the support of the entire Lily Team, I have learned and developed skills that allow me to lead, support my colleagues and help us all move in the same direction. It is so exciting to win the competition! We knew we were doing a good job, but we were not sure about the results of the Matagalpa team, which is also doing very well. For our team, winning represents an achievement that fills us with confidence, joy, and pride - and motivates us to continue improving more every day to succeed in new challenges.
Please join us in congratulating both teams...Salud!