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Teen refugee and grandmother pulling together

Editor’s note: Light One Candle is an annual series sponsored by the Mail Tribune that focuses on an individual, group or organization who could use a helping hand during the holiday season. Once that need is filled, donations may be distributed to others in need.

This teen braved crossing the country’s southern border alone to escape gang violence in her native Honduras. Recently reunited with her maternal grandmother in Ashland, the girl needs winter clothing and shoes suitable to her new climate.

This 14-year-old spent 30 days in the custody of child welfare workers until her grandmother, a U.S. citizen, could come to her aid. The girl resides legally in this country as an asylum applicant while attending Ashland High School, said Laura Lindley-Gutierrez, supervising attorney for the Immigration Law Project at Medford’s Center for NonProfit Legal Services.

A gang member sexually assaulted the teen — then 13 — in Honduras while she was out grocery shopping. The perpetrator offered her the choice of becoming a drug mule for the gang or being killed. The girl — whose father was slain by the gang when she was young — knew she had to seek refuge with her American grandmother, said Lindley-Gutierrez.

The grandmother is in her 70s and suffers from lupus, which accelerated when she contracted COVID-19 early in the pandemic. Also originally from Honduras, the woman has been unable to resume work cleaning houses, said Lindley-Gutierrez.

The girl’s mother has been living in Spain to earn money for her daughter’s food and schooling. When the woman’s husband was killed, her daughter was sent to live with an elderly great-grandmother in Honduras. The grandmother in Ashland has filed a petition to bring her daughter to live in the United States, but the process could take as long as 25 years, said Lindley-Gutierrez.

Gift cards to Walmart, Target and Fred Meyer would help this grandmother get back on her feet and provide for her granddaughter. The girl needs a winter coat and other warm clothing in women’s size medium, as well as women’s size-8 shoes.

Gift cards and monetary donations can be mailed directly to CNPLS, 225 W. Main St., Medford OR 97501. Pandemic precautions have closed the office to visitors. Checks can be made payable to CNPLS, with “Light One Candle #2” in the memo line or on the envelope. Funds will be placed into the client’s trust account, and a check will be drawn directly to the client.

For larger item donations, email Lindley-Gutierrez at l.gutierrez@cnpls.net or call 541-779-7292.

Read all 2021 Light One Candle stories at mailtribune.com/news/light-one-candle/