Maria left La Cuidad with her family a couple of years ago to find a better life in America. If things are bad here, they are even worse in Mexico. High unemployment, low wages, soaring food costs, it was time to get out while she could. She has a cousin in Santa Ana and so, knowing barely any English, her husband, three children (including one infant) and she came to the United States.

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She never expected things to be easy but she is determined to give her children the best opportunity for a better life. They live in a small, one bed room apartment in what has been ranked as the most economically challenged part of the United States. She has no bed and sleeps on a mattress on the floor, her children sleep on a bed and an old couch.

Her husband has trouble finding full time work but works as much as he can. She takes odd jobs cooking but rent is a challenge every month. Not to mention things like food and clothing for their kids. To save money they don’t eat meat.

So when she heard about Morning Garden she was thrilled to get into the program. She enjoys the work, and loves knitting and crocheting, a skill she was already pretty good at, so it feels like a natural fit for her.

Not only that, but Morning Garden hosts a day care and preschool she can take her young kids to. They love going to school and she gets a badly needed break from them. She hopes the online store that Morning Garden operates can sell many of the goods she makes. She hopes it brings in more income. Enough to help pay rent, enough to buy a bed, and maybe even enough to buy something simple, like meat to cook for her children.

Lupe and her family came to America a year ago. Like so many others she and her husband wanted to give their children a chance at a better life. The road has been difficult to say the least. Santa Ana is ranked as the most financially challenging city to live in and they can easily attest to that.

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Her husband earns roughly $420 dollars a week. Rent for the small, one bed room apartment they live in is $900. Two weeks of work doesn’t even cover their rent, and that is when her husband gets paid. Many weeks his employer fails to pay him on time and makes him wait, thus making the financial strain even harder. He wants to work, and wants to find a better job but there simply aren’t any. She is able to pick up some extra work on the weekends, but half of her pay check goes to the baby sitter.

They sleep on mattresses on the floor. They let their children use the bedroom and she and her husband sleep in the living room. She really needs a car. Her husband walks to work, and she walks the kids to school. It’s a challenge. She walks one child to elementary school, then her junior higher to hers, all the while carrying her infant. Then she walks to Morning Garden. She leaves Morning Garden early to walk back to the schools to pick up her kids and take them home.

Like most children, her daughter wants a bike for her birthday. She has no idea how she will be able to afford one and like any parent, she hates to tell her daughter no. She hopes the Morning Garden store will take off and she can make some extra money. They desperately need it. She hopes the extra money will be enough to eventually buy a bed and a car. She hopes the extra income will help cover their rent and she really hopes that Morning Garden means she won’t have to tell her daughter no when she asks for a bike.

Gabriella makes tamales and sells them to the people in her neighborhood, sometimes they ask her to cook for parties but the money is never enough. She had hoped to make enough money working in America to support her family in Mexico, and now she can barely support her family here. Her husband applies to numerous jobs but without a proper education it is difficult. She desperately hopes her family in Mexico can immigrate to the United States but fears they won’t be able to due to the slow and difficult legal immigration process.

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Her daughter is in junior high and is at the age when she is beginning to want designer clothes and products. Her daughter feels embarrassed by the clothes she has to wear. Many of her school friends have nicer clothing and it makes Gabriella sad to tell her daughter no. They simply can’t afford the commodities that peer pressure puts on her daughter. Her son wants a Nintendo DS for Christmas but she knows they won’t be able to afford it. When they go shopping and her kids ask for toys or clothes, she asks them if they would rather eat or have cool shoes? Once, she badly needed a new pair of shoes for herself, but had to spend the money on food instead.

She tries to make up for the lack of luxuries by loving them the best she can. She plays with them whenever she can. She hugs them when they come home from school. She hopes someday her children will look back at her and realize that while they didn’t have many material possessions, they never lacked love. She hopes someday they will realize and appreciate the sacrifices she makes for them.

Like so many in Santa Ana they can barely afford their one bedroom apartment. The money they have is never enough. When she budgets to go grocery shopping she always comes up short and has to make sacrifices in the quality of food she buys for her children. They don’t own a washing machine or dryer and must use a laundromat and even that money is hard to come by.

Like so many people her dream is to someday own her own home, but that dream seems so far away. She wants a yard for her kids to play in and a safe place to call their own. She wants them to not have to share a room or sleep on a couch. Morning Garden is offering her a chance at a better life. Her youngest child loves the preschool they operate and she is working on her English there as well. She is particularly excited about the Morning Garden online store. She hopes the knitting she sells will help her family make ends meet, and maybe someday she can fulfill her dream.

*While all details in these stories are true, the pictures and individual information have been changed to protect those involved.

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