Editor’s note: This story is about resilience. All of us at some point in our lives have faced adversity–this special family from the heart of California was determined not to let it hold them back.
Eva firmly taped the box closed and stacked it on top of several others against her living room wall. She let out a huge sigh of relief–this was the last box she had to pack. Soon the boxes and all her family’s belongings would be loaded in the moving truck and headed to their new house. Earlier that day Eva and her husband Diego had signed the mortgage papers on a home of their own!
It was only three years ago when their family made the move from Texas to California’s Central Valley and were grateful to find an apartment at AMCAL’s affordable community, Villa Escondido. It was a good decision for Eva and Diego, and their adult son Alberto and eleven year old daughter Rochelle*. In California Diego found stable work as a farm laborer, and the children better opportunities in education. Eva and Diego were grateful to find an affordable home; however, affordability was only one benefit from living at Villa Escondido. Soon Eva and her family would have a long list of what they loved about their new community. For the first time in many years life was going well for them.
Then a letter from the IRS arrived in the mail. (This is rarely good news.) And for Eva and Diego it was the dreaded news that they owed back taxes. Living paycheck to paycheck didn’t leave any extra to pay the IRS and Eva worried this would put them behind on their rent and in jeopardy of losing their apartment. Eva was frantic with worry until she met with Leni, her LifeSTEPS’ Director of Social Services at Villa Escondido and together they worked out a plan to pay the taxes. As part of the plan, LifeSTEPS approved $400 of financial assistance through LifeSTEPS’ Craig’s Fund. This allowed the family to clear the back taxes they owed and still pay their rent on time. As a condition of the assistance, Eva began meeting with Leni weekly to develop a family budget and learn more about how to create a solid financial plan for her family. Within a short time the family was back on track and even began to build a savings account.
The next hurdle to overcome came in the summer of 2016. Eva was called to Mexico to help with a family emergency since her father was ill. Her son, at 26 years old, stayed home to care for his younger sister and her husband stayed to work the crops. When she returned her husband was barely recognizable to her. In just one month’s time, he had lost 40 pounds and was in constant pain. Eva was in total shock. Diego went through multiple tests as his doctors tried to explain his failing health. Unfortunately, he continued to lose weight and grow weaker by the day.
After many trips to the hospital, Diego was finally given a diagnosis, a tumor on his pancreas. Eva was devastated–the weight of this burden fell on her alone, but for the sake of her children and husband, Eva kept up a good face. Inside she was terrified of what could happen. This time, she turned to LifeSTEPS for emotional support. Leni met with her one on one each week and allowed Eva to have a space to open up and share her fears. Sometimes she just cried. The time with Leni gave her the strength she needed to not give up hope.
It took consultations with several specialists before Diego finally found a doctor willing to perform surgery to remove his tumor. The surgery was successful and the doctor believed Diego would make a full recovery. Eva again cried with Leni–this time, happy tears as they celebrated the good news.
The move to Villa Escondido proved to be truly life changing for Eva and her family. Through LifeSTEPS Eva took all the tools Leni gave them: financial planning, budgeting and even how to manage her stress and Eva crafted a better future for her family. With practical and timely support Leni helped Eva navigate the system to obtain disability benefits for Diego and helped Alberto obtain employment so he could also contribute to the family budget. (It is actually through her son’s income that the family is able to purchase a home together.)
This family’s remarkable resilience and determination amazingly helped them grow more confident through each obstacle they faced. Eva and her family rose above unforeseen circumstances that could have easily caused them to lose hope, but instead they are moving forward and focusing on the positive.
Leni is sad to see them go; however, she knows without a doubt, Eva and her family were brought to Villa Escondido at exactly the right time in their lives. The impact LIfeSTEPS had on Eva and her family is undeniable. And, in this situation Leni shared that the impact is mutual, “It’s been such a pleasure working with Eva. She exemplifies what being a woman of faith is and that has blessed me. To see her go through each ordeal and still have a smile on her face has impacted my life greatly.”
*Names have been changed