By Hannah Lester
Odalys Silvera has not lived in Auburn all her life, but she’s made a lasting impact on Auburn residents for years to come.
Six years ago she helped to found the Esperanza House, a ministry that works with low-income Hispanic Families in the Lee County area.
The Esperanza House strives to meets the needs of families, whether by tutoring students or providing childcare, financial support and more. The ministry is faith-based. Silvera, now the executive director, said that the goal is for children and families to know the love of Christ.
The program began six years ago with only five children, she said. Now, the Esperanza House serves more than 300.
“I met a family, they needed help with the homework,” she said, describing how the ministry began. “They couldn’t speak English, so the kids needed help with their homework and I was able to help them.”
One of the original challenges that the ministry faced was that Silvera was the only one who spoke Spanish. So all the other board members, or volunteers, had to rely on her to translate for the families.
There are 75 families partnered with the Esperanza House now, Silvera said, but there are many more in the county that need help. There is a waiting list to partner with the ministry.
Education is a big part of the Esperanza House’s purpose.
“We partner with the Auburn City Schools,” Silvera said. “Usually, the teachers let us know if a child might need some kind of help with the classes or if they have physical needs, that’s what we try to do.”
Children can come twice a week for tutoring, either on Monday and Wednesday or Tuesday and Thursday.
Additionally, the organization is helping high school seniors apply to college, especially those who may be first-generation high school graduates or college students.
“Having eight children be able to graduate from high school, first-generation high school students, being able to go to college … that’s very rewarding to see,” Silvera said.
The Esperanza House doesn’t just help out with homework and call it quits.
“When we take a family in, we try to help them all year round, like back-to-school supplies, send them to camps, Christmas,” Silvera said. “We give them monthly food boxes as well.”
An average day-to-day is very different, she said. For instance, there is tutoring four days a week, but on a random Tuesday, Silvera might have to take a child to the doctor because their family does not have health insurance.
Two days later, she might be in a different family’s home providing furniture because they do not have any in the house.
A big part of the program is providing a hand up. The material things may help a family, but Silvera said they want to see the families grow and succeed.
“The idea is for them to grow with us, to know the love of Jesus Christ and to be able to help them,” Silvera said. “To be able to help them to succeed in life.”
Of course, to make all this happen, there have to be volunteers. Silvera said there are a lot of Auburn University students who volunteer with the ministry. They help with tutoring students.
Additionally, the ministry needs funds. The Esperanza House has fundraising events and partnering organizations in the city.
To donate, visit the website (esperanzahouse.org/donate), give supplies through Amazon (smile.amazon.com) by placing Esperanza House in Auburn as the charity or mail a check (Esperanza House P.O. BOX 1444 Auburn, Alabama 36831).
Visit the website (esperanzahouse.org/volunteer) for applications to volunteer.
There are goals Silvera has for the ministry moving forward. Currently, they work out of a local church, but she would like to see them have their own space. Too, she would like to be able to serve more of the families on the waiting list.
“Seeing some of these families getting to know Jesus Christ, we have had families come to faith with Jesus Christ, that’s very rewarding as a Christian-based nonprofit,” Silvera said. “For the families to come and learn about Jesus Christ and all that we do is not because we want to do it, it’s something that God has put in our heart to do in order to serve them.”
Silvera is one of six lamplighter award winners Auburn Mayor Ron Anders named during the state of the city address in November.
This is the third in a series that will highlight the work these lamplighter award winners have done for the city of Auburn.