Who is Josselin Carolina?

In the Milagros Workroom we refer to her as “Empleada Número Uno,” our Number One Employee.

Josselin came to the Casa Hogar as an infant. She does not know her age- likely 24 or 25 years old. Her verbal communication is limited. We depend on Josselin’s body language to tell us how she is feeling: when she is nervous or out of her element, she becomes noticeably quiet; when something is funny, no one lets out a laugh like she does. School was hard for Josselin: she cannot print her name or count above 10, and following multi-step directions is difficult.

In Guatemala, it is very unusual for a young woman, like Josselin, to be fully employed. Their public policy overlooks people with developmental delays leaving them with little or no access to basic services in health or education.

And only 4% of this population have paid employment.

June 2023: Josselin Carolina and Gracia Volunteer/Speech-Language Pathologist, Carolyn

During June of 2018, Carolyn, a Gracia volunteer and speech-language pathologist, committed her week to working with Josselin. As Carolyn was packing up her backpack at the end of her first day, she glanced over and said, “There’s more in her than you think.” Carolyn believed Josselin could hold a job in the Milagros Workroom. To test her theory, she created a list of simple, achievable goals. Because Josselin cannot read, Carolyn posted pictures demonstrating the steps needed to complete a given task. Every day that week Josselin and Carolyn sat down together, reviewed the visual cues, and practiced them. By Friday, Josselin was ready. She put on her Milagros tee shirt and officially began her job as a salaried employee in the Workroom. At 7:45 each morning she heads to the Workroom, turns on the lights, open the windows, and starts the coffee. Everything is ready for the Mujeres Fuertes* when they arrive at 8:00 AM.

Josselin’s story is one of success, right?

Let’s compare Josselin’s progress against Gracia’s four accomplishing objectives for Economic Empowerment:

  1. Earn Income: Josselin has held her salaried position in the Milagros Workroom for 5 consecutive years.
  2. Financial Literacy: Josselin watched when Las Mujeres received their paychecks and deposited them into their bank accounts. Influenced by their actions, Josselin asked to have her own savings account. Now with the help of Las Mujeres, Josselin takes the bus into town and deposits her salary into her own account. She is learning basic control of finance by making simple spending choices, e.g., buying bath and body products, clothes, etc.
  3. Live Independently: Within the Casa Hogar, Josselin lives a remarkably independent life. She showers, puts on her uniform, and opens the Milagros Workroom- all unassisted.
  4. Stand Up for Herself: This one? For a young woman who struggles to express herself verbally, the confidence required to stand up for herself is tough to measure.

Her employment record, bank account, and independent behavior demonstrate she is meeting Accomplishing Objectives 1, 2, & 3.
And the 4 Objecitve, “Stand Up for Herself”?

June 2023: Gracia’s Mujeres Fuertes: Emili, Josselin, Yasmin, Erica, Maria, and Ilma

MIT’s Poverty Action Lab posits exposure to female leaders can elevate the aspirations of young women. This is true for Josselin: her desire to have a job and open a savings account was inspired by the behaviors of Las Mujeres. World Health Organization research tells us that an environment providing a sense of purpose, support, and accountability is key for developing confidence. The Milagros Workroom provides this framework. Las Mujeres depend on Josselin to help keep the Workroom in good order. If she doesn’t complete her work, they hold her accountable; when she struggles with a task, Las Mujeres are there to support and encourage her to keep trying.

Does Josselin’s job in the Milagros Workroom combined with the influence of Las Mujeres help to develop confidence in her?
And if so, will her confidence transfer to the real world in real time?

May 2023: Special Olympics, Jalapa, Guatemala

In May, Josselin participated in the Jalapa Special Olympics- she’s the one in the pink shirt. Her event was a short distance sprint. As she began her race, she was a bit slow and hovered at the back of the pack. But then something clicked. Josselin kicked into gear, passed two other girls, and won.

In June when Gracia staff arrived at the Home, she ran to greet us and handed us the cards she made. Glued to the green construction paper were two pictures of her running. She wasted no time in pointing out the picture of her nearing the finish line and giggled as she said “campeona” or “champion”. This was clearly a moment for Josselin, so we asked to take a picture of her modeling the medal. Without saying “yes” or “no,” she ran back to her room and returned wearing her medal and a fresh shirt.

If you wanted to determine Josselin’s self-confidence by asking her what it felt like that day or what her finishing time was, it is unlikely she could answer the question directly.

But that’s OK.

June 2023: Josselin, Special Olympics Champion

That day at the Special Olympics Josselin showed us. She didn’t back down from a challenge; she showed us that she believes in herself and her abilities.
And now, she has the medal to prove it.







*Gracia refers to the young women who work in the Milagros Workroom as “Las Mujeres Fuertes”.

All contributions are welcome. You can donate on our website by clicking the link above or sending a check to:

  • Gracia Inc.
    1341 W. Fullerton, #203
    Chicago, IL 60614

Las Mujeres Fuertes: Sucy, Yasmin, Erica, Emili, Sonia, and Maria.
Also pictured, Chico Fuerte/Strong Boy, Bryson.

Click here to learn more about Gracia’s impact in Guatemala!

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Gracia, Inc. NFP
1341 W. Fullerton, Suite 203
Chicago, IL 60614

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