By Lauren Hollon Sturdy
Anita Morris packed up her bags and boarded a plane to travel more than 5,000 miles to start a new life.
She hadn’t expected anything to come of the application she handwrote and mailed off months before. When she got the paperwork back, she could hardly believe it was real. She had won a green card by lottery, and in 2001, at 21 years old, she moved to the United States from Bulgaria.
She met and married a military man in Virginia, where she lived for seven years. They had a daughter together, Sophie, now 5, and moved to Lubbock to be nearer to Anita’s sister, Ivanka Boling.
The relationship lasted for eight years, but Anita and her husband divorced. He moved away, leaving her with few options to support herself and her daughter.
They were on the brink of being homeless in July 2011 when Ivanka told Anita to make an appointment at My Father’s House Lubbock. Ivanka knew firsthand it was her sister’s best shot, because Ivanka and her own children lived there.
Anita went in for an interview and Buckner staff told her they’d let her know in a few days if she had been accepted into the program. Internally, she was panicking. She and Sophie didn’t have a few days.
As she walked out to her car, her cell phone rang. Sharion Stephens, residential services coordinator for My Father’s House, was on the other end. She told Anita to come back inside and pick up the keys to her new apartment. Anita cried with joy and relief.
“It was scary knowing that you don’t have a house, you don’t have a place to live,” Anita said. “And if it was just me, that would be fine; but when I have my daughter, it’s a completely different thing.”
It’s been more than a year since that emotional day, and a lot has happened. Anita started working on her bachelor’s degree in communication studies and obtained her U.S. citizenship. Her days are packed, starting at 6 a.m. and sometimes not ending until after midnight. Between getting her daughter to kindergarten, attending classes, running her household and studying, she’s got a lot on her hands.
“Anita is a very, very hard worker,” Stephens said. “She was very unsure of herself and lacking confidence when she first came to us. She was really nervous about getting back into school and thought she couldn’t do it. But she’s an outstanding student.”
Anita speaks several languages and held a job with an airline for many years until recently when her school and work schedule couldn’t be reconciled. She will transfer from South Plains College to Texas Tech University in the spring of 2013 to continue her degree and is seeking a job on campus.
Although balancing school, work and parenting isn’t easy, Anita said her daughter keeps her motivated.
“Before, I was like, 'Why do moms talk about their kids all the time?'” Anita said. “Now I know why. She means everything for me. She’s my life.
“I want to be a good role model for her. I don’t want her to expect somebody to do something for her all the time. I want her to prove that she can do it. And if I don’t show her how to do it, she’s not going to learn it from anybody else.”
Anita said she struggles with the need to rely on assistance. Sometimes she feels impatient, she said, waiting for the day when she and Sophie will be totally independent. But what she really looks forward to is the day she is able to give back.
“One day I hope to do something big and actually help somebody else the same way My Father’s House helped me.”
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