Written by Jesenia Hernandez, Communications Manager and Martin Martinez, Family Engagement Coordinator
Sometimes people and families find themselves in unfamiliar places, miles away from what was once home. In these times it is even more important that doors are opened and community is found.
Four years ago, the Hernandez-De la Rosa family was forced to uproot their lives and found themselves in the Tri-Cities. After an accident, Manuel and Vanessa struggled to find stable jobs, a single-family home, and a way to own a successful business.
Vanessa was a spirit carrier for her family. Manuel recalls, “I entered a deep depression. As a father I felt helpless. My wife kept telling me that we needed to keep faith in God because that is the only way we will get out of this.”
Before arriving to Tierra Vida, Vanessa shared, “We were applying for apartments at two different places. I was worried because of all the requirements; and having just arrived in Tri-Cities, we did not have references. I turned the application in and left with faith. That same day, the other apartments we were applying for turned us down. I took a deep breath and told myself that it would be okay. The next day, Tierra Vida staff called and asked us to come in. There were two apartments and we got one. Before that moment, I felt like all the doors closed on us. I would look at my husband and say, ‘don’t lose faith my love, don’t lose faith because that is what has kept us going in this time.’”
Manuel remembers, “In my depression I felt like I was swimming up to the surface and when I got here, I felt like I finally broke through the water, and I could finally take the breath I was longing for.”
A couple months after moving in, Martin Martinez, Family Engagement Coordinator for Tierra Vida, realized he hadn’t met the family and knocked on their door. He walked them around while listening to their story and dream, and he shared our goal to foster relationships among community members, nurturing a sense of shared purpose. “This started everything,” Martin said. “From this point they belong to something; they are a part of this community. This is only the beginning of their story, not the end. It’s the beginning of new relationships and endeavors.”
Recently, Manuel and Vanessa attained their business license and opened a food stand called El Lagunero. Manuel is passionate about cooking and now feels like he can let go of the stress he has been holding and focus on building the business. Beyond this goal, Vanessa and Manuel dream to use their resiliency and life experience to be mentors and extend their hands out to families who have been through similar situations. They want to walk alongside others who need guidance on attaining a business license, but beyond that, families who need help seeing God’s dream.
“We have known a lot of people that have helped us. When we arrived here, we arrived with fear like everyone. What were we going to do? How were we going to make it? What will we do without knowing people and having resources? I prayed to God that good people would surround us. People that would guide us in the right direction and every moment that is how it has been. One person or another has always come around us and extended a hand, offering us community.”
Abigail, Isahi and Kenya sat at the table listening to their parents share their story for the first time.
“When I got here, I was happy. We had a place,” said Isahi (13 years-old).
This story so beautifully describes the discovery of a home away from home, and the power of community when people are accepted, welcomed and invited to share their purpose and calling with others.