Single parent steps up for family
For the past several years, life hasn’t been easy for Manuela and her two children, Ezequiel and Salome. In 2013, when Ezequiel and Salome were just 7 and 8 years old, their father abandoned the family. He cut Manuela off from their bank accounts, sabotaged her car, and didn’t pay rent or child support.
“After three months we had to move out of our home,” Manuela says. “And at the time Ezequiel’s asthma was out of control – so we were at the doctor quite often, every two weeks.”
But Manuela was determined to care for her family. “My family is small, but my family is resourceful,” she said.
Home is the hub for everything.
Manuela and her children moved into transitional housing. She applied for scholarships at Pima Community College, and was blown away to receive a scholarship for two degrees.
It felt like a blessing. As a full-time student, Manuela could complete her coursework at home.
When she had just one semester left of school, Manuela and the kids moved into low-income housing, where they still live today. They were grateful for a place to call home, but they yearned for something more stable and secure.
Salome currently shares a room with her mom and says it’s hard not having the privacy to change in her own bedroom. Without washers and dryers in the house, Manuela is frequently having to haul all their laundry and linens to a laundromat.
It doesn’t always feel secure or private at their apartment complex, and one night, Ezequiel’s bike was stolen from the property.
When Manuela first got the call from Habitat, her heart jumped. It felt like the final piece of the puzzle of her life was coming together.
“I feel that we were never alone,” she said. “We always had somebody’s hand to hold onto.”
She was able to work with her employer to adapt her schedule to accommodate her sweat equity hours, and she completed over 300 hours in two months. “I was out there every single day from 5:30 in the morning until 12, then I could come home and shower, and go to work, and then come home to care for my children.”
After graduating with a 4.0, Manuela now works in accounting and taxes, and prioritized organization and planning to balance her career, her family, and her sweat equity.
"We were never alone. We always had somebody’s hand to hold onto.”
“I’m looking forward to finally having a house for us where we can have our own space and call our own home,” Manuela says. “Ezequiel can do his gardening and not have to leave,” she said, smiling.
Ezequiel is ready for a home – a place to relax and just be happy and healthy. Salome is most excited about having her own room.
“We’re going to be way more comfortable and we’re going to be able to just walk in and don’t have to be super quiet or feel like people are looking at us,” Salome says. “It’ll be better because we’ll be more stable.” She knows a home will help her achieve her future goals of going to college and becoming a nutritionist.
“For me,” Manuela adds, “home is a place where you have each other, where you grow, where you love one another. Where your dreams come from.” She beams at Salome and Ezequiel, at the strong little family they’ve become.
She says, “Home is the hub for everything.”
Manuela completed her financial classes, sweat equity, partnership requirements and will be purchasing her Habitat Tucson home with an affordable mortgage.