“I Was Often Told That I Will Never Become Anything in My Life.” – Kirian’s Story

April 17, 2020 Ascentria Care Alliance
Growing up in Honduras, Kirian Vasquez was left to fend for herself at the age of 14. For as long as she could remember, she was told that as a woman, her job was to be a wife and a mother, nothing more. “I was often told that I will never become anything [in] my life,” explained Kirian. Desperate to escape, Kirian fled to the United States, where as an unaccompanied minor, she was placed into the care of Ascentria Care Alliance’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program (URMP).

Kirian grew up in Honduras with her two sisters. When her and her sisters were very young, Kirian’s mother went to the United States, leaving them behind. With their mother gone, Kirian and her sisters were left in the care of family members where they experienced physical abuse and neglect. “We were often denied food or given very little food… we were pretty much hungry all the time,” Kirian said. “I recall a moment in my life that I [had] to steal food from my own house to feed my sisters and myself. We were beaten very often as well.”
Kirian took on the responsibility of providing for her two young sisters.

At just 14 years old, she began living by herself. She would work during the daytime and go to school at night. Meanwhile, in her community, Kirian was unsafe. Crime surrounded her, especially gang violence. One day, Kirian lost her job, and in that moment she had a realization; she realized that if she did stay in Honduras, “…I will be no more than just a woman with kids... There is nothing wrong with that, but it was not the life I wanted for myself. I did not want to get married at a young age and have kids with whomever just because that was the expectation that people had [for] me.” Neglected and abused by caregivers and insecure in her home, young Kirian made the difficult decision to flee her country and seek a better life in the United States.

Kirian came to the U.S., not to pursue a dream, but to escape violence and gender discrimination. “I did not have any dream,” Kirian shared, “I just wanted to escape the taboo which has been set up for many generations in our society and culture; that a woman needs to marry early and have children at a very young age… I did not want to just be a woman with no education, no future, no room to grow in a society that thought that going to school was a waste of my time.”  Growing up in Honduras, Kirian was taught that to dream of anything beyond being a wife and mother, such as the dream of having a career, only happened in fairy tales. She came to the U.S. fleeing those beliefs, not yet realizing the opportunities that would be available to her through Ascentria’s URMP.

Upon her arrival in the United States, Kirian was placed in the care of Ascentria’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program. Kirian faced immense challenges in her new community. She recalled, “One of the biggest challenges and struggles that I faced was the language. The language barrier made me feel so frustrated many times, [so] that I wanted to go back to my county and never come back here no matter what.” Despite these challenges, the supports offered to her by Ascentria allowed Kirian to push through: “I had a very helpful group of people looking around me to make sure I didn’t give up. I had social workers that even though they did not speak [Spanish], they put a lot of effort to not let me sink…Ascentria helped a lot in that [transition] making sure I had everything I needed to focus on my studies at school, and by making sure I felt comfortable at home with the foster family.”

As she settled into her foster home, Kirian was enrolled into a local high school. She was surprised to learn thatKirian-6.JPG continuing her education was indeed possible. “I never thought that I could go to school here. I thought that only… [rich] kids could go to a high school.” Education opened the door for Kirian to dream beyond what she had previously thought possible. “After I entered high school,” Kirian described, “I started dreaming of being someone in life. I dreamed of becoming an FBI agent, a social worker, a lawyer, and many other things.” From there, Kirian’s future was on a bright path.

As Kirian continued to work toward her high school diploma, many mentors in her life encouraged her to consider going into business. She didn’t think that was an option, because she didn’t believe herself to be smart enough. Despite her doubts, Kirian successfully learned English, graduated high school and was accepted into college. She tried out many different degree programs, including Criminal Justice, Psychology and Accounting. None of these majors felt right for her, until finally she landed on a Business Administration and Management Degree.

Kirian-4-(1).jpgToday, there continue to be mentors that encourage Kirian, and who tell her that she will be a successful businesswoman. Despite years of rejecting that idea, Kirian decided to give herself a chance. Over the last year, Kirian worked toward this new dream, and she has proudly and successfully set up her own Limited Liability Company (LLC) in the marble and tile industry. She continues to manage this new venture while working to complete her Business Administration and Management degree. Another major accomplishment for Kirian occured in July 2019; she became a U.S. Citizen. In Kirian’s words that was “one of the biggest accomplishments I have had.”

Reflecting back on her time in the Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program, Kirian shared, “I am very thankful to all the social workers I had during my stay in the program.” She shared an important piece of advice for other youth in the program: “Socialize with people that will make you dream big and become successful. Enjoy being young, be creative, appreciate every advice your foster parents and social workers give you… Always dream big, and believe that the impossible is always possible if you have faith.”

There are many children like Kirian across the world. Children that have been abandoned by parents, abused by caregivers, threatened by gangs or forced to drop out of school and work at a young age. Whatever their stories, these children are individuals with hopes, dreams and immense potential. Ascentria’s Unaccompanied Refugee Minors Program provides these children with the support that they need to obtain an education, build connections in their new community and enter into adulthood with the skills they need to succeed. To learn how you can help, visit www.ascentria.org/urm