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Where each purchase you make sends a ray of sunshine into the lives of Elsa Johana Ortiz Enriquez and her family. Her story is tragic and yet an inspiring example of a mother's determination to provide a better life for her son Antony.
My name is Randy Carter. My wife, Tina, and I founded Elsa Ortiz Online LLC, in 2019, motivated, by the heart-wrenching separation of Elsa and Antony when they sought asylum in the United States in 2018. We read about it in the New York Times about a week before our planned vacation in Guatemala. The headline read "‘I Can’t Go Without My Son,’ a Mother Pleaded as She Was Deported to Guatemala". She was escorted across the tarmac to a deporting flight by an American immigration officer, also in tears. "Please don’t put me on the plane" she begged repeatedly, "I can’t go without my son". She feared that she may never see Antony again. We learned that other parents seeking asylum in the U.S. had suffered similarly. As proud Americans who believe in the ideals of our country, we wanted to help reunite these families. We would be in Guatemala the following week. Maybe we could connect some of them with lawyers in the States while there. First, I found lawyers who agreed to take such cases pro bono. Working with Sylvia Rodriguez and Pedro Solares, Tina contacted Elsa and two others in the same predicament and then worked to facilitate the return of their children. Antony, age 8, was the last to be reunited after 81 days of separation. It was a joyous moment for all involved! [You'll find detailed reports of Elsa's agonizing story of attempted immigration in Newsweekmagazine, theNew York Times, or Prensa Libre(Spanish).]
Through it all, we learned about Elsa's aspirations and dreams, her dedication to Antony, her inherent potential, and her willingness to work hard to achieve her goals. We also saw that neither she nor Antony could achieve their full potential without help. Although Elsa and Antony were back together, they still faced a life of poverty in Guatemala with no economic or educational opportunities. Tina led a community effort to pay for Antony to get a good education. We brainstormed with Elsa about the possibilities for her to rise out of poverty. I suggested starting an export business. She loved the idea and we believed it was feasible. We decided to help her start her business by using her as a buyer for an online store that we would create. This would sustain her while she continued her education. She buys handmade products for the store in the Mayan villages of the Guatemalan highlands. We find retail outlets for them in the U.S. and sell retail online. Our plan was to transition out of our middle-man volunteer role, over time, leaving Elsa with an export/buying business with U.S. retailers as clients. It seemed feasible with a long-term coordinated effort. Elsa had only a sixth grade education and would have to go back to school to attain a high school diploma, at least, to succeed in the business. Buying for EOO provides her a sustenance income while she prepares herself to run a business. Several merchants in Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM now sell her products and Elsa is one year away from her GED. She is beginning to learn how to use computers and business software in addition to gaining experience as a buyer to embark on her journey toward entrepreneurship.
In September, 2018, the Guatemalan newspaper Prensa Libre ran an editorial about the zero tolerance policy headlined "Un país, no un pueblo, sin corazón"; in English, "A country, not a people, without a heart". Conversations with friends, neighbors, and small businesses in our community have resoundingly reaffirmed the view of the Prensa Libre editors that the people of the United States have big hearts. Elsa and Antony will have the opportunity to achieve their full potential. They are seizing the opportunity! They are anxious to succeed and to offer others in Guatemala hope for a brighter future.