Johanna and Ricardo: Starting a New Life

Johanna and Ricardo immigrated to the United States from Mexico in hopes of creating a better future for their children. The parents tirelessly worked to make ends meet while their children learned English and adapted to a new life in Colorado. Today, with a little support from EFAA’s Housing and Children’s Programs, they have saved enough money for a down payment to purchase a mobile home.

Three years ago, Johanna and Ricardo made the brave and difficult decision to leave their home and start a new life with their three children in the United States. The area of Mexico they once called home is rife with violence, and they dreamed of living in a safe place with better opportunities for their kids.

When the family arrived in Boulder County in 2019, they doubled up in a home with Ricardo’s sister. While it provided a solution for the time being, it was stressful to share a small space with another family and kids, and they wanted to establish their own routine and space as a family. Johanna went out every day in search of affordable rental properties, but there was simply nothing available within their budget. On top of that, the parents had trouble finding work and enrolling the kids in school.

“It was very stressful in the beginning,” said Johanna. “The kids were extremely unhappy because they weren’t in school making friends. It was so different from our life in Mexico where they could play in the wide-open space of our farm. It was like they were in jail.”

While their early days in Colorado were not easy, Johanna and Ricardo persevered to create the life they wanted for their children.

Ricardo’s sister told them about EFAA, an organization that helped her family avert homelessness and save for a mobile home of their own. “That’s when things really changed,” said Johanna, “Coming to EFAA was a total 360.”

Johanna and Ricardo were identified as strong candidates for EFAA’s two-year long housing program in which participants work on self-identified goals while paying a subsidized rent rate. While living at Atwood, EFAA’s Longmont housing site, Johanna and Ricardo not only were able to make ends meet, but they were actually able to start working toward their ambitious savings and budgeting goals with a Case Manager. They also became Resident Caretakers of the housing site, an arrangement that reduces participants’ rent for their efforts to help maintain the property, including cleaning the premises, watering the grass, delivering toiletries and supplies to other tenants, and more.

Meanwhile, Ricardo was working for a landscaping company, and he realized that he might be able to bring in more income as an independent contractor. With a small bit of support from EFAA, he bought his own landscaping tools, enabling him to start his own landscaping business that would later be pivotal to his family’s success. In combination with Johanna’s job at a fast food restaurant, the couple put in an extraordinary amount of work to provide for their family – and their efforts are paying off.

Today, Johanna and Ricardo have saved enough money to buy a mobile home of their own.

“Our hope for the future is to have greater stability for the kids, and having a place of our own is an important step,” Ricardo explained. “We would also love to be able to spend more time together as a family. Sometimes I come home very late after a long day of work just as my wife is leaving for her job, and I don’t get to see her very often. We have sacrificed so much, but I know it’s worth it.”

Their kids, currently age 10, 6, and 5, have also made some exciting breakthroughs working with EFAA’s Children’s Program. When they first came to EFAA, they were extremely shy and had a difficult time adjusting to life in a new country. The oldest child in particular had a hard time speaking English. The volunteers of our after-school Kid’s Club worked closely with her to help improve her pronunciation. After several years of participating in the program, the kids are much more outgoing, confident, and happy. “As long as our kids are happy, then we’re happy,” Ricardo smiled.

While dropping her children off at Kids Club, Johanna met Christina, an EFAA Case Manager who became an important resource in helping her and her family adapt to her new life in Colorado. “Moving to a new place, I had so many nerves with not knowing what resources were available in my community. Christina gave me lots of referrals, including to clinics and Head Start, and this really helped me come out of my shell. I even learned how to drive, which is a necessity living here. I had to overcome my nerves one way or another!”

Uprooting one’s life and moving to an unfamiliar place is no small feat. And yet, in just three years, this family has started a small business, saved enough money for a home, learned a new language, and became confident navigating community resources. Johanna and Ricardo set out to create a better future for their children, and it appears as though this future is becoming a reality.