Year Joined MKLM: 2017
City: São Paulo
Focus: Art and religious education and prison ministry
Project(s): Centro da Integração do Imigrante, Casa da Acolhida Nossa Senhora Aparecida, Comunidade Haiti e Comunidade Santo Expedito. Saude da Mulher
People Served: Impoverished children, youth and incarcerated women and their babies.
Project Goals: To build a safe platform for the children’s growth in self-expression, creativity, personal development and social skills. To share health transforming information and experiences in efforts of comforting, educating, and walking alongside women and their babies towards living a more sustainable lifestyle.
After Portuguese language school, Margarita began to volunteer with and explore various projects addressing São Paulo’s many social issues and needs. She got involved in serving the homeless, aiding the elderly, playing with cancerous children, making pastoral visits to prisons, and helping give art courses to children from impoverished families. She soon realized that her main interests revolved around — and she was most needed in — child education and prison ministry.
Today Margarita teaches art, physical education, English and catechism. Most of the children she teaches are immigrants (or children of immigrant parents), refugees and children from low-income families living on the margins of São Paulo. She aims to give them a safe space for growth in self-expression, creativity, personal development and social skills.
She also works in prison ministry at the Penitenciária Feminina do Butantã, an all-women’s prison in one of São Paulo’s suburbs called Butantã. Together with fellow Maryknoll lay missioner Kathleen Maynard and a local volunteer, she facilitates a women’s health course for pregnant women and mothers living with babies who are up to six months old. As part of the course, they work with the mothers to help build their babies’ motor skills and also guide them in baby chantala massage.
Margarita says, “The children and the women motivate me every day to get up and live my faith in a hands-on way. Little did I know that I would be a student in my courses learning from a multitude of little humans looking up at me. I’m humbled to say that I have received so much more from the Brazilian people than I thought was possible. I’m inspired by their resilience and perseverance despite their difficult journeys and circumstances. The people live with a festive heart full of hope and faith, and it’s nothing but contagious and motivates me to continue on our joint walk for justice.”
Margarita grew up in Tecate, Mexico, with the Maryknoll magazine in her home, and has always wanted to do mission work. She is very excited about serving in Brazil and is very interested in the languages and cultures of South America. As a teenager, Margarita often volunteered as a religious education teacher in her parish and also assisted with Vacation Bible School. She has led confirmation and youth group retreats.
Margarita has a bachelor’s degree in criminology and psychology from the University of New Mexico and has worked as a customer service representative and a kindergarten teacher’s assistant.