500 kilometers. That is the distance that Yolanda Poveda (Cuenca, 1969) travels by car so that her sister Sandra, with Down Syndrome, can see and visit her father for only a few hours. The path is always the same, always back and forth, every weekend. Without laziness, without a single complaint or bad face, even if he has a thousand other things and worries in his head.
First she drives from Pinto to Aldea del Fresno —to the west of the Community of Madrid— to pick up her sister in the center where she lives when they are not together. Later, they begin the march towards Montalbo, in Cuenca, the town where their father’s residence is located. The three of them eat together, they remember, they smile. And to retrace the path … When she returns to Pinto alone at night, after leaving Sandra, Yoli breathes calmly. The 500 kilometers have been worth it, they always deserve it.
It is a magnificent summer afternoon. The two sisters walk slowly through the Parque del Egido, in the center of Pinto. Yolanda wears a hope green blouse, and her eyes and lips are painted. Every now and then, he puts his hand on Sandra’s walker to help her walk and guide her. She just had a second hip surgery and is still recovering. “I am bossy and I have it all day walking around the park, going up and down stairs … In the last operation, the doctor said that doing this had been very good for her,” she explains under the watchful eye of her little sister who already feel like sitting on the bench.
She knows first-hand that caregiving is tough, invisible, and little recognized. 85% of non-professional caregivers of dependent people like Yolanda are women, according to the Spanish Society of Geriatrics and Gerontology (SEGG). Even so, this is not a burden for her, it never has been, she does not want to call it that: “Sometimes, caregivers feel exhausted, people do not ask us if we are well. Because I, sometimes, I exhaust myself … I feel overwhelmed, tired, exhausted, but it is what they have taught me to be as a person, to take care of my elders, my family … My mother had meningitis when she was nine years old and became mentally retarded, so it was my grandmother who raised us… When she passed away, she passed the baton on to me. ”
Yolanda has been taking care of Sandra since she was born when she was only five years old, but also of her grandfather and her parents, who at one point, when she could no longer, was forced to admit them to a residence. “People think it’s easy, but it’s very hard,” he explains, trying to contain his emotion. “I felt bad because at that time in my town there was no one in the residences and it was like you were abandoned to them. I did not give of myself, I had to take care of my grandparents, my parents, my sister, my house, with two small children… “.
He came to have four jobs at the same time to “be able to feed” his children. When she left working as a housekeeper in a Madrid home, she chained contracts in shopping centers and cleaned shops and clinics: “Due to life’s misfortunes, my husband left home one day and since then I have been carrying out alone for thirteen years. my children…”. She even had to ask Caritas and the Red Cross for help to make ends meet so that Daniel and Eva, cook and illustrator, could study and be free. Today they are his best pride, his great team.
“There are many families that fight among themselves for trivial things, but since life has given me so many sticks, when someone comes telling me about the huge problems they have, I am amazed …”. That is why, like her sister Sandra — who never ceases to admire her in amazement throughout the conversation — Yoli never loses her smile.