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“I Never Felt Alone”: Maydelyn, a Refugee and Single Mom from Guatemala, Finds Community and a New Start in Massachusetts

  June 26, 2024

Arriving full of hope

Maydelyn with her sons, 11-year-old Xavier and 9-year-old Pablo, who came to the U.S. as refugees from Guatemala

After making an impossible choice and a difficult journey, Maydelyn, a former schoolteacher, refugee from Guatemala, and single mother, arrived at Boston Logan International Airport with her 11-year-old son, Xavier, and her nine-year-old son, Pablo last August. All three were eager for a fresh start.  

Their new home would be in Quincy, Massachusetts. IINE’s Housing Coordinators had found and furnished an apartment for the family in the Boston suburb, in an area with a large Spanish-speaking community. Once Maydelyn and her sons moved in, IINE Case Managers quickly got to work on enrolling the boys in school, helping the family apply for public benefits, and scheduling medical appointments. By September, Xavier and Pablo told their Case Managers that they were enjoying their classes and had already made friends with other students with Guatemalan backgrounds. 

Pursuing her dream

Madelyn was extremely eager to learn English and join the workforce in her new community. She told her IINE Employment Specialist that her goals were to attain English fluency, become a Spanish language teacher, and to be a homeowner. Understanding the path would be long, she quickly took a job with a local housekeeping agency. Within months, and with IINE’s help, Maydelyn was hired as a housekeeper at the Charles Hotel in Harvard Square. While she had enrolled in ESOL classes, her work schedule and commute made it challenging to attend them. IINE connected her with a volunteer to tutor her one-on-one. Madelyn remembers feeling truly blessed to be on her way towards her goals. 
 
“Despite starting a life from scratch without knowing the language and without knowing where to start, I never felt alone. My Case Manager not only helped me resolve each and every one of the important procedures but also made me feel welcome because of the affection with which he always treated me. I felt supported at all times. Without IINE the adaptation would have been too difficult.”

An incomparable friendship

Maydelyn and her sons got a special level of support from the mother-daughter team of Anna and Rosie Glastra. Anna had begun volunteering at IINE the April before Maydelyn arrived. An immigrant herself, Anna was eager to help other new arrivals find their way in a new country – and put her Spanish language skills to good use!  

Initially, Anna signed up to provide transportation support, driving IINE clients to appointments and classes and helping them to run errands. When Maydelyn and her boys arrived, Anna became one of IINE’s first “Community Mentors.”  

Xavier and Pablo in the Halloween spirit

Similar to IINE’s Resettle Together volunteer teams, Community Mentors get matched with refugee families or individuals in their early stage of resettlement and become their guides, supporters, and—as was certainly the case with Anna and Maydelyn— their first friends in the U.S. 

Anna and her daughter Rosie began working with Maydelyn when she arrived in August. It was Anna who let IINE know that she would need a workaround for ESOL instruction, leading to her getting a tutor. By the fall, Anna was helping Xavier and Pablo get ready for a very exciting first. She wrote to IINE’s Volunteer Coordinator, “Last Wednesday, Maydelyn and I spent a great afternoon with the boys, visiting and enjoying the Halloween store to get an outfit. They were so excited to be able to celebrate Halloween for the first time ever. Their school organizes a Halloween party tomorrow afternoon, and after that they will go trick-or-treating in the neighborhood with Maydelyn. The remaining part of the afternoon last week, we played mini golf and got a bite to eat. It was a lovely afternoon.” 

In November it was time for another exciting New England tradition. Anna shared, “I took them apple picking, which was a great success. The whole family enjoyed it so much. I believe the boys each ate at least 6 apples while picking :). They climbed on every ladder to get the highest available apple out of the tree and went home with two full bags of apples and a pumpkin.” 

Volunteers Anna (left) and Rosie (center) with Maydelyn and her sons, enjoying an afternoon outing to the local apple orchard

Maydelyn was proud to be able to return the favor later in the month, inviting Anna and Rosie to her apartment in Quincy for a birthday party. Anna wrote, “She cooked delicious Guatemalan dishes for us and baked a tres leches cake (her mom’s recipe). She was so happy to share her lovely apartment with guests for the first time in the US.” 

Of her friendship with Anna, Maydelyn says, “I am grateful for having the connection between Anna and us since she and her family have given my children and me unforgettable moments and most importantly, incomparable friendship and affection.” 

A promising future

Almost a year later, secure in her home and work, and progressing with her English skills, Maydelyn is self-sufficient. Anna checked in with her in the spring and reported, Xavier and Pablo are doing really well in school. They both have quite some friends and are both involved in sports: basketball and soccer. They made amazing progress with their English. Maydelyn mentioned to me that she recently had a parent-teacher conference in which the teacher said that both boys are excellent students, which made her very happy and proud. 
 
While there was nothing easy about leaving her country behind and journeying to a new land as a single mother, thanks to her bravery and drive, her family’s positivity, the support of IINE, and the friendship of Anna and Rosie, Maydelyn and her sons are building a better, hope-filled life in New England.

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Volunteers are essential to the work we do to welcome and resettle newcomers to Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Click to explore our volunteer opportunities.


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