By Aimee Freston
Dulce Luevanos plucks a ribbon from her colorful stash of supplies and holds it up to show 25 women how to sew several ribbons together to begin making a hair bow. Her process is precise. She demonstrates the procedure for the women and smiles encouragingly at their questions. She is poised and confident.
She never imagined she would be teaching this class, but with encouragement from the staff at the Buckner Family Hope Center in Peñitas, Texas, Dulce found hope, ambition and confidence.
Dulce and her husband, Vicente Millan, struggled to make ends meet. Parents of eight children, they fought to make a living that could sustain them. Vicente would go to work every day and Dulce would care for the kids, but their house was in disarray, and it was difficult to pay for the things they needed. That’s when Dulce discovered the Family Hope Center.
Dulce first became acquainted with the Family Hope Center while volunteering at an elementary school. A case manager from the center came to the school to hand out backpacks full of supplies. Later, a friend encouraged her to go with her to the center. She connected with a case manager and started case management.
While at the Hope Center, Dulce learned she could earn points to have a home built for her family. To earn points, she attended educational classes at the Family Hope Center. At the time, the center offered three classes: basic sewing, bow making and a financial planning course. The classes are designed to help clients become financially stable, often allowing them to create an item to sell and supplement their income.
Desirous for a house, Dulce faithfully attended a class on how to make bows; however, the teacher was inconsistent in coming. Discouraged, Dulce asked how she was supposed to earn points if there were never any classes.
Gabriel Flores, a case manager at the Family Hope Center, noticed that Dulce had strong leadership qualities and encouraged her to teach the classes herself. At first she was hesitant because she didn’t know how to make bows, but once she applied herself to learning, she began enjoying the process.
“I didn’t really want to teach the class,” Dulce said. “But Gabriel ‘forced’ me to. I didn’t know how to make bows and had no idea how to even begin. The only way I was going to learn was to buy bows that I liked, take them apart and then put them back together.”
It wasn’t long before she was teaching the class and getting more inspiration to create new bows.
“I’m not the kind of person that if I know something, I’m going to keep it to myself,” Dulce said. “I want to share it with the whole world because anybody can do it. If I can do it, anybody can do it. Now that I have learned how to do it, I don’t want to keep that knowledge to myself. I want to share it, which is why I love teaching the classes.”
Dulce’s favorite part of teaching is having women rely on her and ask her questions about the bows. She feels good knowing that people believe in her to succeed.
“Dulce is a great person, always smiling and always happy,” Dulce’s case manager Edna Chapa says. “But now she has motivation and responsibility. She’s grown a lot and gained a lot of confidence in herself, and she realizes that there is a lot you can do as a woman and a mother.”
For Dulce, Buckner’s influence on her life has shown her that she is capable of doing things for her family.
“Every time I went to a class,” Dulce says, “I wanted to do more, and I came to realize that the more I could do at the Hope Center, the more I could do for my family. I began challenging myself to do something newer, bigger and better.”
She is inspiring the women in her class also to think this way. Many of her students approach her with ideas, such as creating a board to hold the bows they make, and she will work with them to execute the idea.
“Mainly what we provide is the empowerment,” Chapa says. “We want them to believe in themselves. If they don’t believe in themselves, they aren’t going anywhere. Many people handicap themselves, but with some motivation and belief, they can move mountains. Dulce is a good example as we have never had an instance where she was not able to do something. She is rubbing off on her family and even the other clients here at the hope center. She encourages them.”
The difference for her family has been significant. Vicente said his wife is happier and thinks the classes teach her how to do important things. The difference also is noticeable in their children as they are encouraged to try new things and work at their best level.
“Dulce is definitely a go-getter,” Chapa says. “Everyone here knows that if you need someone to help, and to help with joy, to contact Dulce.”
Through the case management, leadership training and other core classes, the Family Hope Center empowers families like Dulce’s, giving them a sense of worth and hope. Though she was originally drawn into the classes by the promise of a new house, Dulce has ultimately gained more than just a home, but also self-confidence.
“I am very thankful to Buckner,” Dulce said. “They have touched my heart in many ways. The educational opportunities have allowed me to progress and move forward as a person.”
Aimee Freston is the print publications editor for Buckner International. Contact her at afreston[at]buckner[dot]org. Photography by John Hall and Aimee Freston.
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