Separated from my mother at the tender age of 4, I and my brothers were left behind in Panama and cared for by family and friends.
All of my family members were living below poverty lines. In addition to our financial struggles, we also had to live through the invasion of Panama by the United States in 1989. This was a terrifying time for me and my family. I thought that this would be the end of my life. However, my family and I made it out alive.
A year later, my brothers and I found out that we were going to the U.S. to meet our mother. I will never forget getting off the plane in San Francisco. It was definite culture shock.
We arrived during the winter months and we did not have proper clothing. It was so cold. I remember strangers putting coats on our backs. I found out later that the kind strangers were individuals who worked for the Ecumenical Hunger Program. I also found out that they were responsible for applying for the grant that made it possible for us to relocate to the U.S.
Throughout the years, EHP became our lifeline. They assisted my mother in attaining a house through the housing program. They provided food, counseling, tutoring, and other resources. Every Christmas and Thanksgiving, EHP would supply food and gifts. They also provided clothing and school supplies for back-to-school needs.
On a minimum wage part-time salary, there was no way we could have made it without EHP's help.
Sadly, my mother passed at the age of 46. Never forgetting my mother's motto of the "sky is the limit," I concentrated on my education, graduated from high school, attended college and eventually graduated with a master's degree in social work in May 2008.
I will forever be thankful to EHP for all that they have done for my family. EHP was instrumental in giving me the hope and resources I needed to stay in school, to make something of my life, and finally to help others, which is what I get to do in my current position as a dean of Mount Vernon Academy, a private, Seventh-day Adventist high school in Mount Vernon, Ohio.
I thank EHP for always extending a helping hand, for their love and care toward me and my family, and for not giving up on us throughout the years. I cannot imagine where my family and I would be if not for EHP and its caring staff.
Go to ehpcares.org for more information on the Ecumenical Hunger Program, based at 2411 Pulgas Ave. in East Palo Alto. Call (650) 323-7781.