IN THEIR EYES
Fernando grew up in Fresno, near Parkside – with his mom, dad, and sister. His father worked 3-4 jobs to make ends meet, and the stress manifested into violent rage. Burned in his memory are the harsh beatings at the hands of his father. The wounds inflicted on 9 year old Fernando from being whipped with extension cords and ropes sunk deep. His mother and sister did all they could to protect and comfort young Fernando, but the abuse would not stop.
The only bright memory of his father was being invited to go fishing up at Dinkey Creek. Fernando was excited but nervous. He thought maybe he and his dad could mend their relationship, but the feeling of uneasiness and anxiety overshadowed hope. Fernando believed his dad could explode at any moment. In all his memories, fishing in the mountains was the only time Fernando saw his father look like he was at peace.
Fernando turned to the streets for acceptance. At 12 years old, a gang influenced young Fernando into the destructive lifestyle of crime and drugs: smoking weed, stealing cars, selling drugs and guns, snorting cocaine and using crystal meth. The “easy” money and escape snared Fernando.
Throughout high school, his father’s attacks continued, until one day Fernando was beaten so badly he couldn’t walk. When his gang heard about the incident, they took vengeance. With guns drawn, they confronted and threatened his father. He never laid another hand on Fernando.
Fernando learned about Hope Now from a flier he found near Harrison and Belmont. Sleeping in his car at the time, he thought the idea of anyone giving him a job was stupid. He crumpled up the flier up and threw it on the floor of his car.
“No one would hire someone like me…
a thief, a drug addict, an alcoholic.”
Later that week, Fernando’s children asked him why he didn’t work. His kids had experienced Fernando being arrested by armed police officers. He shot back, “Daddy makes the easy money.” The sad look in his kids eyes cut Fernando to the core. He couldn’t shake the conviction that he could be a better father.
That night, he picked up the wrinkled flier and read it over and over. “Are they serious? Could they really help me?” He grabbed his phone and dialed. Johnny, Hope Now’s Director of Social Enterprise, answered the call and invited Fernando to come on down.
At Hope Now, Fernando noticed people from different “hoods” working together. For the first time, Fernando didn’t feel pressure to “act” a certain way to fit in. He was free to be himself, and experienced a real sense of belonging.
He graduated Hope Now’s program, was placed in a job, and has worked ever since. Fernando quit his troublesome gang life of crime and drugs. Hope Now has taught Fernando new ways to think, work, and raise a family.
“I’m at about a level 3 right now,
but I want to be at level 5.”
Fernando now dreams of getting promoted, buying a car, and providing a happy home for his family. He also desires to give back to young guys struggling like he used to. The best thing though… the sadness and disappointment in his children’s eyes have turned into joy and respect.