Our 2013 Annual Report encompasses the theme of hope and resilience. Featured below are four moving stories of individuals and families that have been impacted by the services that Bienvenidos offers.
Bobby is the kind of kid that the other kids gravitate to. He loves baseball and his sister Bailey. And he misses his dad.
But it took some work to get here. In the wake of his father’s suicide, Bobby became withdrawn and anxious. Crowds of people made him nervous, and he started obsessively cracking his knuckles. He didn’t feel like he could talk about the sadness and confusion prompted by his father’s death, especially when it seemed his mother and sister were so much more affected.
It felt strange to be meeting his Bienvenidos therapist, Lupe, for the first time, but he trusted her immediately. With her help, he was able to stop the knuckle-cracking, and start talking about his feelings. Together they assigned his feelings to colors… relaxation was purple, anger was red… and he worked through the torrent of emotions that were tearing him apart inside.
Now he’s ready to graduate from therapy, and is proud to model his success for his sister, who is still working on her grief. His mother wishes she had handled things better from the beginning, but Bobby isn’t angry with her. His eyes are on the future… continuing to play baseball, dreaming of playing for the Yankees.
Ten years ago, Rafael couldn’t remember the last time he saw a doctor. While his wife and children had insurance, his truck-driving job didn’t provide any coverage, or enough money for him to pay out-of-pocket.
Then in April of 2005, a neighbor told him about Bienvenidos Community Health Center. He made an appointment, and at that first visit was diagnosed with Type II diabetes, which was out of control. If it hadn’t been discovered then, it wouldn’t have been long before it would start affecting his feet or his eyesight.
Now he visits his Bienvenidos doctor every two months and keeps his blood sugar normal. He credits the education he received on how to manage his condition with improving his health. When on the road, he often made poor dietary decisions, but his Bienvenidos doctor helped him understand what foods to choose and how to maintain a healthy diet when he was traveling.
When asked why Bienvenidos is important to him, Rafael tells us, “The doctors understand me. Without Bienvenidos, I would have nowhere else to go.”
Chelsea and Elizabeth
“She was the cutest little baby,” Elizabeth Mariscal says of her daughter, Chelsea. But Chelsea was two days old before Elizabeth knew she existed.
“I never had a moment where I didn’t feel like I belonged,” Chelsea says of her family. One of seven kids, she started kindergarten when her baby sister was an infant, and became an aunt at 10. She can’t imagine being an only child or part of a small family.
But for the first nine months of her life, Chelsea was cared for in the Bienvenidos Children’s Center shelter. Elizabeth quit her job at Bienvenidos to give this tiny baby a real home. Chelsea’s birth mother visited her at the Mariscals’ home, hoping to regain custody, but Chelsea was three years old when the visits stopped. Even so, she fought the adoption process every step of the way, and Chelsea didn’t have a forever family until age five.
Chelsea still remembers the day they went to court to get her adoption finalized, though she found it confusing. She still has the pink blanket she arrived at the shelter in, and a stuffed bear that a court employee gave her. As she grew up, Elizabeth always answered her questions, and she always knew that somewhere out there, she had a birth mother, and a younger brother whom she had never met.
It was just this year that Chelsea felt like she was ready to meet her birth mother and her brother. Even so, it came as a shock to her how quickly her family found them on Facebook. Chelsea and her little brother Jeremiah became Facebook friends, and she learned he was in theological college and deeply involved in ministry work. She felt relieved that he had escaped the cycle of drug use that their mother had been locked into.
Jeremiah hadn’t known he had a sister, or about his mother’s previous addiction problems. Chelsea and Jeremiah see the same woman who gave birth to them as two different people, but are building a relationship out of their common love of music and their shared sense of humor.
Now Chelsea’s birth mother is trying to make up for 20 lost years as fast as possible, but Chelsea is taking it slow. They have a lot of catching up to do, but she has the family she needs, and the family she wants… and the time to keep building those relationships.
Seven-year-old Mark Garcia didn’t realize anything was different the day his father picked him up from school after having a beer or two. But his concerned teacher reported the incident, and a DCFS caseworker referred them to Project Corazón a year ago.
The family—parents Marta and Victor, and children Alexandra (17), Victor Jr. (13), Mark, and Calima (1)—met their Family Specialist with mixed emotions. Marta was overwhelmed: pregnant with twins and worried about their finances. Victor was adamant that their family was fine, and he wouldn’t participate.
But Bienvenidos staff persevered with home visits. Marta confided that she was sure the marriage was as good as done, and didn’t think she could support and care for six children on her own. The twins were taking a large toll on her body, and her doctor had ordered bedrest. She couldn’t work, and disability wasn’t paying the bills.
First things first. Bienvenidos Emergency Support got utilities caught up, provided baby supplies, and filled the gas tank, letting Marta focus on bigger problems. Parenting classes gave her more tools to emotionally support her children, and Mental Health services for Marta and Victor Jr. put them back on track to healthy functioning.
Project Corazón gave Marta a quiet place to study for her Registered Nurse exam while her younger children were safe and happy in Respite Care, moving her career forward as an RN.
With Bienvenidos’ support, Marta told her husband of her desire to model a healthy relationship for their children. Having seen how Project Corazón had helped his family, Victor Garcia agreed to take parenting classes and started coming with them to Family Fun events. Marta and Victor know there’s still a hard road ahead, but now they have a map and are headed in the right direction. Marta says, “Muchas gracias por salvar a nuestra familia.” [“Thank you very much for saving our family.”]