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How Milagro Got Her Groove Back

by Marisa Lianggamphai, Oakland, CA

Milagro Moreyra, who came to the U.S. from Bolivia, contacted Proyecto Visión for help finding a job.

Milagro has a master's degree in psychology and taught kids who were Deaf and developmentally delayed in Bolivia. She also started her own business as a daycare provider that she ran for 16 years in the United States. However, her health problems and mobility limitations caused her to stop working in 1983. Unable to find work that would accommodate her skills and disability, she didn't work again for 20 years.

When Milagro saw an advertisement for Proyecto Visión on Telemundo Spanish language television station, she decided to call. Milagro told Proyecto Visión, "I'm going to die of depression in my own house if I don't do something!"

Daniel Gutierrez, employment specialist, listened to her story and told her about resources that she might need. He also helped her explore what she wanted to do and let her know her rights as a person with a disability. Most importantly, he helped her believe that she could find a job again.

Encouraged, Milagro began her search. She knew she loved teaching and had skills with children. First, she visited the School District office and landed a job as a learning assistant and English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor for first graders. Then came tutoring requests from parents, so she began tutoring 4 th and 5 th graders from Mexico, El Salvador and other Latin American countries. Finally, Milagro provided translation services for the local School Board and provided childcare for adults who attended ESL classes. Through her involvement in the community, she found her self-esteem again.

Milagro said Proyecto Visión helped her believe in herself again and provided her with not only concrete support about what to do, but also encouragement and confidence in her abilities. Daniel, the employment specialist, helped Milagro focus on next steps, as well as told her about job training resources like the Department of Vocational Rehabilitation. She also appreciated how Daniel would send her lots of information in the mail and kept in touch with her, even after she moved.

Today, Milagro is considering starting a small business importing organic coffee from Bolivia. Another business she is interested in starting is tutoring elementary children from immigrant families.

Again, Proyecto Visión was there to support her new goals of starting a business. Daniel connected Milagro to another employment-related program based out of the World Institute on Disability (WID) called Access to Assets. This program helps people with disabilities establish Individual Development Accounts (IDA) that their bank or credit unions offer. IDAs help people who have low income save money for a small business, education or a home. Megan O'Neil at Access to Assets helped Milagro contact a credit union in Santa Cruz that ran an IDA program. Megan also let her know about the Women's Initiative for Self Employment, a non-profit that helps train and finance low-income women to start or expand a business.

Milagro learned many lessons from pulling her life together. She passes on to her youngest son, who also has a disability, the most important one: "Never give up and don't be afraid to ask for help."