Central Valley, CA Chapter
Chapter President, Zenia Zuniga
Hello, my name is Zenia Zuniga. I am mother of 4 children. I live here in Ceres but grew up all over the Central Coast & Valley in CAas a child. I would like to share a few words about my life to you. My life has not been easy as a child, for me or for my siblings. My father abused drugs & alcohol. There was a lot of domestic violence between my parents. My mother was also struggling with breast cancer for years. I had to grow up pretty fast especially being a caregiver for my siblings.
We grew up homeless & struggled to make it through each day. It was difficult to make it to soup kitchens on time to receive our meal of the day and to a shelter at night to keep warm. Many dayswe would go behind grocery stores & eat food they would throw away. Many timeswe didn’t make it on time to the shelters or they would be full so we slept in our run down van with the clothes we would be wearing. Through the middle of all of this, my mother still read to us. We didn’t have many books but only a few. When she read to me, personally that alone, made me feel loved. That gave me a happy place just for quick moment, like everything was perfect in my life. As I am writing this, I can remember her warmth as she cradled me into her arms. I can hear her breathing as she read to me.
On June 1, 1987, my mother passed away. We were all placed in the foster care system after being abandoned by our father in a hotel room. We weren’t placed with family right away. Meanwhile, we were shuffled around foster homes. Our only belongings would get lost or thrown away. Often we would arrive to a foster home with nothing except what we were wearing.
I personally know & remember what a “child in need” feels like. Today, it is my mission to help Pajama Program that every child feels secure in their environment by sleeping warm at night & loved, building lasting memories by simply being read to.
I know that the struggles I have experienced as a child have been for a purpose. Though some of those struggles have left an imprint in my daily life, they have made me the person I am today. I know personally that even a big warm hug can make a huge difference in the life of a child in need.