I recently interviewed Janie Hanson-Ernstrom about her passion for the women and children of Guatemala. Janie has an interesting story… She shares, “I’ve always had an affinity for working with disenfranchised women and children since working in Spanish Harlem at the start of my career. The empowerment of women through education is one of my passions. I had many Spanish speaking-only women as my patients, which contributed to my love and pursuit of the Spanish language.
I felt so strongly after we had our two daughters, that my mission was to adopt a little boy. I heard God’s encouragement throughout this process. Our path led us to Guatemala and to our son, Jack Armando Ernstrom. I fell in love with him and the Mayan people – some of the poorest people in the Western Hemisphere.
When Bill and I heard about the charity, Starfish, from its founders, Connie and Ted Ning, I knew this was a way for me to give back to Guatemala. Starfish provides both education scholarships and mentors to the indigenous girls of Guatemala. Most poor families only educate their sons beyond 6th grade, if at all. Most indigenous girls are left behind. When these young women in extreme poverty are empowered through education and role modeling, they delay their marriages beyond age 15 and have fewer children (many come from families of 5-10 children). When a woman is educated, the health of the family and community improve. The need to relinquish a child decreases as their economic status increases. Families stay together … and that is a good thing!”