Women head up to 25 percent of all households in Lima, where single mom Catalina Zevallos and her 7-year-old daughter Maria live.
Maria Bartolo Zevallos sits at the kitchen table, squinting into her blue notebook. Strands of the 7-year-old's long black hair spill onto the pages as she scribbles her homework assignment.
Despite her own exhaustion, Catalina Zevallos Cruz looks intently over her daughter's shoulder, her eyes strained from the single light bulb illuminating their one-room home. Each day Catalina awakes before dawn and walks to a local bakery to begin work at 5 a.m. When her shift ends at 6 p.m., she walks to the Compassion-assisted Forjadores de Esperanza to pick up Maria.
Catalina does this dusk-to-dawn trek alone with no husband and no extended family members, she is her daughter's sole caregiver. Despite her long day, the single mom sits ramrod straight at the only table in her home, in one of two wooden chairs she owns, watching her only child do her homework.
"I'm concerned about her studies," Catalina says. "I want her to know more for her future."
Increasing Numbers of Single Moms
While the majority of families in Latin America are traditional two-parent households, an alarming rise in single-parent households is occurring in the region. Single mothers, like Catalina, are the breadwinners for 60 percent of the poorest families in Latin America.
Experts claim that men abandoning their families, increases in single women becoming mothers, and the premature deaths of men have contributed to the rise in single-mother households. Single mothers often lack the income, resources and time that two parents can give a child. In a developing country like Peru, monetary assistance can mean the difference between a family's ability to survive or not.
Typically, single female heads of households make less than their male counterparts if they find work at all. Catalina works 13 hours a day, six days a week, but earns just U.S.$44 a month the equivalent of 13 cents an hour.
"We need many things," she says. "Sometimes the money I earn at work is just enough to pay for school supplies."
Hope Through Compassion
Necessities like food, health care and even clothing would go unfilled if it were not for Compassion, says the young mother. In Maria's neighborhood more than half the adults are unemployed and are extremely poor. Catalina says sponsorship for Maria has allowed her to have something that many families in her community do not have: hope.
"I feel very joyful," she says. "For Christmas and (Maria's) birthday her sponsors send money and the sisters at the project help me to buy clothes for my child."
Maria says she feels special, too. Many children in her neighborhood live in poverty and do not have Compassion sponsors.
"I pray that other children will have a sponsor like I have," she says.
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