At 17, Rosa Martinez already had two children. What she didn't have was hope that she could ever be happy. She had married a man who was mean and abusive and who beat her and her children. He told her she was stupid and useless.
Rosa had been in the United States only for a year, couldn't speak English, didn't have any friends and didn't know how to drive. She felt helpless and trapped. The beatings continued and became more severe until, eventually, the police intervened and Rosa's husband was arrested for attempted murder.
Not knowing what to do or where to go, Rosa packed up her children and the few things she could carry and bought bus tickets to Salt Lake City. As she traveled, she wondered how she would survive.
When she arrived in Salt Lake City, she found an inexpensive place to stay. The hotel manager noticed the troubled look on her face and told her of a place that perhaps could help: The Latter-day Saint Humanitarian Center.
Rosa didn't have any idea what else to do, so she interviewed at the Humanitarian Center, met with a bishop who was willing to sponsor her and finally was offered a job sorting clothing. The wages she received allowed her to find a more permanent place to stay, but that was not enough for Rosa.
She discovered that the Humanitarian Center closed early on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week so that workers could attend classes. She signed up for an English class. She was surprised at how quickly she began to pick up the language her husband had told her she was too stupid to learn. Next, she discovered that the Humanitarian Center, in cooperation with Salt Lake Community College, offered more intensive English classes. She signed up for those as well. She even learned to drive.
She did so well with her studies that she soon began working as a bilingual receptionist at the Humanitarian Center. She enrolled in the Salt Lake Community College's "Back to Work" course and began to develop receptionist and secretarial skills. She even began attending an English-speaking ward.
Through Rosa's hard work and determination, she eventually landed a secretarial job with a national company that offered benefits and a chance for her and her children to live modestly but well.
"The Humanitarian Center has been a great blessing for me," she said. "People have been good to me."
Neil K. Newell, Welfare Services
Another in the series "Pure Religion" showing the principles of wefare service at work.
Illustration by John Clark.