Every Time We Sit Down to Dinner:
I See an Empty Space

Listen to Sarbelia’s Story 6:15 in Spanish

Listen to Sarbelia’s Story 6:20 in Spanish


I come from Ecuador, from a village called Sidcay. It’s a very small village, in the countryside up in the mountains. I left Ecuador on the day of September 3, in the year 2000. I was sixteen years old. I didn’t have any place to live, I had my son. Often I didn’t have anything to dress him in, or anything to feed him.  That was very sad for me. I wanted to find a better future for my son.

I have not seen him for more than seven years.

It was very hard for me, a very sad memory—because I had never seen my father cry. The day I said goodbye, he gave me a big hug and started to cry. He told me he wanted to be able to see me again one day, but he wasn’t sure this would really happen, because he is quite old.

I didn’t like to visit my parents’ home in Sidcay. I went to their house and there I saw my mom looking in every corner for a cup of coffee to give me —because she didn’t have any. This was something really hard for me—to see how needy they were, and me with my arms crossed, not being able to do anything.

I know that I am very far away, that I don’t see them, and it makes me ache. But I know that my mother doesn’t lack food to eat, she doesn’t lack clothes to wear.  As long as I exist, she won’t need anything.

Now things are very different for me, because through the years I have been able to study, I have been able to have a better job, I have been able to grow like a human being, I have been able to know that people of other races are kind and have a heart just like me.

For me it’s not a job. It’s like a home that I go to, where I’m happy all day. It represents my struggle, it represents a reward for many things that have happened in my life.  I believe that it means that dreams are possible, it means love for people, for my community.

In reality, my dream is to be able to have my documents, get my status together, be with my two sons, studying really hard—here.

Jonathan, Sorbelia's son in Sidcay

Jonathan, Sorbelia’s son in Sidcay

I feel very guilty every time we sit down to have dinner.  I see an empty space. Each time I go out on the street holding hands with my little son, I feel guilty for not having my other son. Christopher always tells me, “I miss my brother—why isn’t my brother here?” He thinks it’s because we don’t have any money.  My son is five years old and he says, “I want to work, to bring my brother here.”  Because he thinks it’s for lack of money.  I don’t know how to explain the situation to him.

In the cold of winter and in the heat of summer the people are outside, mowing grass, working in construction, sweating like crazy, trying to earn a miserable wage, being exploited. It’s like modern slavery—slavery has not ended.

I have this great rage. I would like to have the power to make those people who want me to go  home to live my experiences and the experiences of thousands of people– for one month. And I want to see if they can endure it. They don’t know what this means and how much one aches, how much one suffers in this struggle.

If I had the opportunity to be in front of someone who had the power to decide about the life of immigrants here in the United States, I would like to say to them that, when they are about to make their decision, they close their eyes and put themselves in our place—in the place of millions of people. And that they think of how much we are suffering, and they see us as human beings struggling for a better life.