Ernesto and Sofia’s (love) story

Ernesto and Sofia’s (love) story

Ernesto and Sofia had to flee their home country to save the lives of their young children, whose lives had, horrifically, been threatened by violent gangsters. The family had virtually nothing except two small suitcases of clothes to their name when they landed in the UK, and were terrified to even think about where they would eat or sleep.

“It is so difficult to leave your country and your family,” Sofia says now,” but we had our love for each other, and that helped us survive.”

Their story really is a testament to the power of that love, and their resilience as refugees.

Sofia, a single mum of two, had given up on finding love, but all that changed soon after Ernesto walked into the taqueria in El Salvador that she worked at. Their friendship soon became a romantic relationship, and within months Ernesto had met her parents, and the couple started to plan a life together.

Little did they know this was to start off a chain of events that would twist their lives out of control, and take them halfway around the world.

The problems began with the Pandemic; the couple both lost their jobs, and tragically within twelve months, both of Sofia’s parents died. Ernesto and his parents were a great support for Sofia and her children, and they all moved into Ernesto’s home. ‘It was just the strength of our love for each other that kept us going through those moments,’ she says, looking back.

The move was not easy, especially because of gangs operating in Ernesto’s area. Turf wars and gun battles were commonplace, but the couple hoped for a brighter future, and married soon after the move, uniting them as a family.

To make money, Sofia and her children began selling tacos from the house, which was successful. But one day, a gang member came to demand daily protection money, and threatened to kill them if they didn’t pay; terrified, Sofia recognised him as the same person who had recently shot dead a young neighbour.

It was impossible to tell the police because the police themselves had links to the gangs, so they paid – but soon the fee was raised to an amount they simply couldn’t afford to pay. In response the gang demanded the children work for them, collecting ‘rent’. If they didn’t, the gang told Sofia she would find her children dead.

Their love for their family meant they had to get away, but where?

The gang was watching them and had tentacles throughout the country. The only option was to leave El Salvador, but they didn’t know how. “Then a friend told us to ask for asylum in another country. They thought we would be safe in the UK. We desperately needed to be safe, so our families helped us collect the money for the flights,” Sofia says.

They arrived in London with just the bare essentials in two small suitcases, feeling terrified. “It is so difficult to leave your country and your family. We were frightened to think about where we would sleep or eat, because we had nothing, and so little money. But inside we always believed that together we could do things.”

Now in the UK, they long to rebuild their lives, and when allowed, create a business of their own. Their love has been tested in ways most of us will never know, but they long to continue their love story, and cherish the chance to live and love in peace – Care4Calais volunteers are supporting them with this.

“Thank you for sharing our story on Valentine’s Day,” Sofia tells us. “I hope it shows that with love, perseverance and togetherness, everything is possible.”

If you can support refugees to make a new life of hope in a new, safe country, please sign up to volunteer with us today at

About Care4Calais

Care4Calais was founded by a group of volunteers with the sole aim of supporting the people of the Calais refugee camps, providing fresh meals, warm clothing, heating and important legal and medical support.

We are not politicians – we are people like you who simply believe that every human has the right to be treated in a fair and dignified way.

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