Wish Book

Wish Book: After a life of fear, mother and three children seek a new start

FAMILY LIVES A MORE TRANQUIL LIFE NOW: From left: Wilfredo Santamaría, 18, Yael, 11, Yael Avalos (mom), and Daniel, 14, in Opa-locka.
FAMILY LIVES A MORE TRANQUIL LIFE NOW: From left: Wilfredo Santamaría, 18, Yael, 11, Yael Avalos (mom), and Daniel, 14, in Opa-locka. el Nuevo Herald

Starting from zero isn’t easy, but it’s even harder if there are three children involved.

That’s the challenge Yael Avalos faced when she decided, about a year ago, to leave behind what she said was a life of fear and abuse.

Avalos looks back at that life with dread, describing what she and her children — Wilfredo Santamaría, 18, Daniel, 14, and Yael, 11, endured.

Said Avalos of her ex: “He used to call me ‘ignorant’ and ‘stupid’... and threatened to call immigration services to deport me — because I had a deportation order — and told me he would take the kids away from me.”

The children lived in constant fear of the bouts of rage their father would unleash against their mother, attacks that often escalated from verbal to physical. They, too, became victims of abuse, a social services agency case worker said.

Her eldest son, who has hemophilia, was also bullied at school by children who mocked him for having crooked teeth and needing orthodontic work.

Avalos, who is from Nicaragua, came to the United States in 1996 after illegally crossing the border from Mexico. She was already pregnant with her eldest son. Wilfredo’s father crossed the border with Avalos but soon after abandoned her and the baby. She worked odd jobs to pay for a place to sleep and remembers having to keep the baby’s milk bottles on the bed so rats wouldn’t get to them.

Soon after, she met the man who would father two more of her children but not make life any better.

Today, Avalos lives in a sparsely furnished home in Opa-locka. Often, Avalos is content to just watch her children eat because there isn’t enough food for her.

When she left her ex, he paid child support for three months, then stopped. Avalos took him to court, but while the legal process plays out, she is searching for a stable job to support her kids. Currently, she makes a little money selling used items at a flea market in Homestead.

“Now I’m alone with my children and the pride they give me,” said Avalos, who likes to brag about how well her kids are doing in school.

Despite financial difficulties, Avalos said she lives a more tranquil life. A year ago, she became a legal U.S. resident.

Avalos’ dedication to her children and her unrelenting desire to improve her life is the reason Betty Delgado, a case supervisor at the Center for the Improvement of Children and Families (an agency contracted by the Department of Children and Families), recommended Avalos for the Wish Book campaign.

“We work with many cases involving abuse, but this family, in particular, has touched us,” said Delgado, who added that the agency started reviewing the case in March 2013. “She has been the victim of abuse for many years, and now that she has gone to therapy, she realizes that the situation she was in wasn’t good at all.”

Delgado said Avalos is a role model. Despite her difficulties, she has done everything that has been asked of her to improve her situation.

“She puts her children as the priority and ahead of her own needs — always,” Delgado said.

The family lacks many things, but what would be of most immediate use is a computer so the children could do their school assignments at home instead of at the public library. It also would be great if someone could donate at least one year of Internet service.

“And also food. They don’t have much food,” Delgado said.

Despite the hardships, the three children smile a lot more these days.

“Now is when the children are finally able to talk about what they went through,” Delgado said, “and are starting to let go of a very difficult past.”

How to help

Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year.

▪ To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.

▪ To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444.

▪ For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com.

▪ Most requested items: Laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans.

Read more at Miami Herald.com/wishbook.

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