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Estero mother strong in time of need

Dec. 15, 2012
2012 Twelve Days of Giving Flashback: Aura Samayoa...
2012 Twelve Days of Giving Flashback: Aura Samayoa...: IN SPANISH: Jobless mother of six discusses the challenges of the coming season. Video by (2012)
Aura Samayoya and her 2-year-old daughter, Johanna. / Amy Bennett Williams/
Leslie Tomas, 12, with her mother, Aura Samayoa, 38 and baby sister Johanna, 2. / Amy Bennett Williams/

Day 4

The holidays are a time for giving, and the needs in Southwest Florida are great. Each day until Dec. 23, The News-Press will feature the wishes of 12 families and people in hopes that neighbors can help their less fortunate neighbors.

How to help

If you can help make Aura Samayoa’s family’s wishes come true, email or contact the Cafe of Life at 495-9325. The address is P.O. Box 367794, Bonita Springs, 34136.


Her recent life story sounds like lyrics to a blues song: Her man is dead, she’s out of work, got six hungry kids who all need shoes and the landlord just raised their rent 67 percent.

“No, no feliz Navidad this year,” says Aura Samayoa, smiling ruefully at the broken window of the dented Estero trailer where she’s lived the last four years. “But I sing, I laugh — I have to, so the children don’t cry.”

Singing and laughing are by no means all she does; near-destitution is more labor-intensive than you might guess.

No car makes public transportation a necessity. Fortunately, there’s a LeeTran bus stop on U.S. 41 near the Covered Wagon mobile home park, but it’s not the fastest way to travel. It cost her the better part of the day to get to and from her oldest daughter’s holiday performance at Spring Creek Elementary in Bonita Springs.

No washer means she has to haul seven people’s laundry to and from a pay machine. No food means she takes the bus to the center of Bonita Springs where volunteers from the Cafe of Life provide daily hot meals. And no income means she avoids the subject whenever Christmas comes up.

“How can I think about buying presents for the kids when they all need clothes and shoes?” Samayoa, 38, asks in Spanish.

Born near the Mexican border in Guatemala, she came here 13 years ago with her husband to work. “It was only going to be for a year or so,” she says, “but here I am still.”

After her husband returned to Guatemala, then was killed in a robbery there a year ago, Samayoa decided the prudent thing to do would be to stay. She thinks it’s only a matter of months before her papers are in order. But with a 2-year-old and no money for daycare, she can’t work outside the home. So she babysits for friends when she can and did some laundry for them as well - that is, until the washer was repossessed.

Samayoa refuses to let it depress her. The bashed up nose of her trailer is softened by golden sprays of chipilin blossoms — a Guatemalan herb — blooming roses and carefully tended crimson poinsettias.

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“She’s such a good person,” says Yadi Munoz, who works at the nonprofit Bonita Springs Cafe of Life, where she got to know Samayoa. “What’s happening to her is just not fair.”

She’s referring to Covered Wagon management’s recent decision to begin charging $50 extra per month per child, which has raised Samayoa’s rent from $450 to $750 — a two-thirds increase. David Gardner, who’s listed on the park’s website as the manager, was not in the office on a recent afternoon, nor did he return a phone call from The News-Press seeking comment on the policy.

Samayoa’s not ready to give up, though. Shaking her head with a grin, she says, “Oh, no, I’m not afraid of them.” With a few other women in the park, she’s contacted a lawyer to take their case, she says, and she’s sure they’ll win.

But in the meantime, Christmas is coming, and the kids all want presents. Twelve-year-old Leslie would love an iPod; 11-year-old Ernesto and 5-year-old Argelio want Beyblade tops; Juana, 9, is obsessed with the idea of a camera; 8-year-old Nancy loves Barbies and little Johanna wants a baby doll to cuddle.

Never mind that their mom would rather they all had decent shoes — it’s all a moot point anyway, she says.

“This doesn’t seem to be like it’s going to be our best Christmas, that’s true,” she says.

“But we all have a family and they have me.”

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