Hope and Ganas

Your support drives success in our community

As Maria Valenzuela stepped into the classroom to give her carefully prepared presentation on oral health, something unexpected stopped her in her tracks. She recognized this place.

“As a little girl in first grade, I was here as a student,” she told the group of mothers gathered to participate in Maria’s group. She realized in that moment, her drive to help others had taken her full circle.

In the late ‘70s, Maria’s mother brought her to Arizona from Mexico in search of a better life. But it wasn’t to be. Due to unforeseen circumstances, Maria entered the foster care system in her early teens. Maria would never return home.

Despite her hardships, Maria never gave up. Instead of becoming a statistic, she decided to dedicate her life to making a difference. “I had the tenacity, ‘ganas,’ what we call ‘desire’ to succeed,” says Maria.

Over the coming years, Maria would prove just how significant the ‘ganas’ she had within her was. She volunteered and worked for numerous community centers throughout Phoenix, eventually joining Esperança at the age of 26 to improve the lives of the people living in her own childhood community and others like it.

Almost 18 years later, Maria Valenzuela is much more than Esperança’s Phoenix Program Director. She is a co-author of the nationally recognized obesity prevention curriculum, Salud con Sabor Latino (Health with Latin Flavor). She is a recipient of the 2017 Healthcare Heroes Award for Community Outreach. Most importantly for Maria, she is an involved member of her own Phoenix community.

Through your support, Maria and her staff impact the lives of more than 5,000 individuals every year – working tirelessly to help local families stay healthy and improve their lives and the lives of their children.

Thank you for your partnership that allows Maria to bring hope and ‘ganas’ to people in need throughout the Phoenix area!


From Accident to Opportunity – How volunteer work can bring restoration

In March of 2016, Ramón was struck by a car while crossing the street, leaving him with a traumatic brain injury (TBI) – a condition that severely impacts physical and cognitive abilities and which forced him to quit the new supervisory role at a Maricopa County hospital where he had just started working.

With no income, a loss in functional abilities, and a poor outlook for what the future might bring, Ramón faced a difficult climb to recovery. However, a fully committed heart and mind can do amazing things.

After months of recovery therapy, Ramón began searching for an organization that matched his background where he could begin rebuilding the skills that had been lost because of the accident.

We are grateful that his search landed him here at Esperança. He started working two days per week sorting medical supplies in our warehouse, which eventually led him to helping with our donation intake work and even joining Maria Valenzuela in teaching in our Salud con Sabor Latino (Health with a Latin Flavor) nutrition classes. These classes empower low-income, Latino residents of Maricopa County to overcome language and economic barriers to improve their families’ health and reduce chronic disease.

“This organization impacted me in two major ways,” says Ramón. “First, it has allowed me to put my volunteer skills to use. Second, as a brain injury survivor, Esperança is helping me rebuild the workplace skills I need to be successful.”

For Ramón Gallardo, volunteering at Esperança provides not only an opportunity to improve the lives of people in the Phoenix neighborhood where he grew up – a neighborhood he has a strong passion to serve – but it has also provided an opportunity to restore what otherwise might still be broken.

“I used to compare myself to old, pre-injury Ramón, but now I am confident. I am a new, better Ramón. I never would have had these opportunities without Esperança.”

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