Olga Delarosa (‘19) is a junior in Lancaster Bible College’s social work program. She’s hardworking, determined and smart. But at the tender age of 20, she’s already been on the receiving end of social work programs.
Instability is one word that sums up much of Olga’s young life. “Throughout my life, there have been times when my parents were together and other times they just weren’t,” she explained. After a series of moves around New York and Pennsylvania from second to eighth grade, her family finally landed in a spacious townhouse in the Keystone state. “Unfortunately, that didn’t last very long,” said Olga. The day after Christmas in 2011, her dad moved back to New York once more. Shortly after, a death in the family required her mother, Sandra, to fly to the Dominican Republic. Not long after that, the family was evicted from the place they called home – forcing them to look for temporary housing in a shelter.
“I remember my dad leaving. I remember the news of my grandfather’s passing. I remember the phone call on the bus that my mom was already on her way to the airport, and I remember the eviction notice on our door,” said Olga. “But the thing I remember most was walking into that shelter.”
Thankfully, their stint at the shelter was short-lived. A family friend opened up their home to the Delarosas before they needed to stay the night at the shelter, and they quickly accepted the offer. “Our couches became their couches, our belongings went in the basement, and we were given a room,” recalled Olga. “We stuffed three girls into one room and laid down two mattresses on the floor, side by side. As you can imagine, we were grateful – I’m sure my mom was too – but my gratitude quickly turned to bitterness and anger when I had no space, privacy or room to express myself. My mom cried, my sister cried, and I had to be the strong one.”
Olga and her family stayed in that home for about seven months. But things didn’t get much better. “Homelessness affects more than just not having a roof over your head,” she explained. “It affects everything else – education included.” Olga ended up missing several weeks of classes, and finding transportation to school became difficult. Still, her mothered soldiered on, determined to provide for her family.
Sandra eventually learned about Bridge of Hope, a social services organization located in Lancaster, Pennsylvania and reached out to them for help. After much persistence, the family was accepted into its program for single homeless mothers. The organization helped the family to move out on their own and educated them on budgeting, family communication, finding resources and more. “Bridge of Hope worked with my family for over a year and a half. They provided emotional, spiritual and financial support and so many other little things along the way,” said Olga “We are immensely grateful for them. Eventually, we graduated from the program and overcame obstacles we never thought we’d be able to overcome.”
Here’s where things come full circle. Olga became an intern at Good Samaritan Shelter in the fall of 2017 – an organization currently undergoing a merger with Bridge of Hope, the same place that helped her family find stability. “Five years later, I’m a junior in college, practicing social work and completing my practicum under the same organization that gave so much to my family and me!” said Olga excitedly. “In that same amount of time, we got our own apartment, and our rent, electricity, and all other bills are paid every single month on time.”
So, why is Olga studying social work at LBC today? “My experience helped me to understand that support systems are important. They’re the only way people can create effective changes in their life, especially when they are going through a crisis,” explained Olga. “Through deeply studying God’s Word at LBC, I have learned that everything we went through was part of a process that needed to happen so that I could be a stronger version me – to glorify Him.”