Before the pandemic, Zulema Camacho, a mother of five, ran diabetes prevention workshops at school sites for the Clínica Monseñor Óscar A. Romero facility. But when schools shut down, her work dried up.
In August, Camacho’s family hardships worsened. Her daughter’s clavicle was broken during childbirth, requiring special care. Then the Vernon textile company where her husband, Mario, worked closed for months. The company has reopened, and Mario is working six days a week as the family clings to stay in their Boyle Heights apartment.
Now Camacho, like so many mothers, is a caretaker, teacher, housekeeper, cook and homework monitor, determined to get her family through the crisis. Her children will learn. She will keep them on task. She will nourish and support her family.
She is a stickler for schedules. By the time her 7-, 12- and 14-year-old daughters gather at the kitchen table for school on weekday mornings, Camacho has their toast and smoothies ready.
When her daughters need to speak in class, she ushers them to the building stairwell for space, quiet and fresh air. When their computers stop working, she literally runs over to nearby Euclid Avenue Elementary School, for IT help, infant and toddler in tow.
“My girls know that before they sit in front of their tablets they need to be bathed, combed and properly dressed — just like in regular school. None of this pajama nonsense,” she said.
On Saturdays, Camacho makes and sells balloon decorations for drive-through parties, “anything to make a little money and help out my husband,” she said.
The one respite she allows herself is outdoor, socially distant prayer at La Voz del Pueblo, a local Christian church. “It’s just five of us and we always wear masks,” she said. “My husband worries about it, but he knows I need this to renew myself, so I can be strong for all of us.”