Bravery comes in many forms. It can arise in the face of illness or on the battlefield. Bravery can flicker in the darkness, illuminating the night or it can glint boldly in the sunlight.
In Monica's case, bravery comes in the form of an indomitable spirit and the will to persevere against all odds.
Originally from Veracruz, Monica’s mother left Mexico after her small business was robbed by gang members. Monica chose to stay behind with her father but circumstance changed her destiny.
She made the decision to come to the United States after the birth of her son. A scared teenage mother seeking medical treatment for her child, Monica attempted to cross the border unsuccessfully several times before hiring a coyote to get her to the dusty border town of McAllen, Texas.
Finally in the U.S., she managed to find a clinic that would treat her son’s cleft palate.
The operation was a success and she believed she was on the path to happiness. Tragically, this joy was short lived.
One month after surgery, Monica’s baby boy contracted meningitis and died. He was less than a year old.
“He grew inside of me,” she said. “I knew him.”
Stricken by the loss and thousands of miles from the only home she’d ever known, Monica could have surrendered to the grief, blamed herself and given up. But she forged on and slowly, managed to build a life in Lake Worth.
She found work, she reconnected with her family and she fell in love. She found herself pregnant again but the shadows of tragedy wove their way into her life once more and she miscarried.
Still, Monica forged ahead.
When she realized she was pregnant for the third time, Monica’s happiness was tempered by fear. She signed up with Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies and the nurse told her about the services offered by BRIDGES. Initially, she was hesitant. She had never heard of this organization before and as a Spanish speaker, she was worried about communication.
“When I walked in and met with Jessica Lopez, I was so happy,” she says. “I was so glad to see someone who spoke Spanish and smiled at me like we were family.”
Monica became a member on the spot and learned about BRIDGES’ various programs.
“I was eight months pregnant and they talked me about Medicaid and care for the baby’s development,” she said. “After Joel was born, they kept helping me. They’re still helping me.”
A big believer in giving back, Monica now volunteers with BRIDGES, doing outreach for the Guatamalan and Mexican communities in the area.
“I give something little because they gave me a lot,” she said.
Joel – now a boisterous and bright little boy of three – is enrolled in BRIDGES’ kindergarten readiness program and Monica is taking ESOL classes to improve her English in the hopes of getting a degree.
“I would love to work for BRIDGES when I get my degree. They’ve helped me so much. I want to be that person for someone else. There are a lot of Spanish parents in this area who would be thankful for bilingual programs. I could help with that.”
Monica credits BRIDGES with providing a sense of security and hope for her family.
“I love everybody here,” she says. “Carmelle (BRIDGES director) always says hi to me and tries to speak to me and Joel in Spanish. This is my country now. This is my home and I’m not going anywhere.”