Things That Matter

This Latina Mom Moved Her Family From A Garage to An Apartment And The Tears Are Streaming

As many of us map out, work toward, and realize our dreams in this new year, a Latina mom literally gave her children a new lease on life when she showed them the new apartment they would be living in. Up until then, the family of three lived in a garage. On Jan. 1, 2020, Ana Manzo gave her children a tour of their new, empty apartment, not knowing her daughter Meydi was recording the entire reaction. Meydi’s brother walked around excitedly, smiled when he saw the bedroom and immediately started sobbing. Now, Latino Twitter is taking it upon themselves to relate to the lows and highs and ensure the Manzo family will struggle just a little bit less.

Meydi decided to film the momentous moment that their family had been saving for over the last 7 years.

CREDIT: @MEYDII_ / TWITTER

“After more then 7 years living in a small garage that was the only thing my mom could afford, we finally got a small apartment, this was my little brothers reaction,” Meydi Manzo captioned the viral video that now has over 4 million views. It seems like both Meydi and her mom expected to see a happy reaction from her brother, but didn’t expect the tears. When her brother walks into what looks like a one-bedroom apartment, a big grin swallows up his face. Then, he starts to cry, taking a sleeve to his face to dry his tears as Mama Ana gives him a big hug and asks why he’s crying. Anyone who has been there already knows why he’s crying. “It’s okay to cry papi ????,” offers one Twitter user. 

Another offers her experience, tweeting, “This is so beautiful to see! It’s an incredible feeling.
When I was younger I lived in a small room with 3 of my other siblings and my parents. It makes you humble… but keep grinding for that better life!!” 

After the video went viral, Meydi took the opportunity to offer a lesson in gratitude.

CREDIT: @MEYDII_ / TWITTER

“Hi we didn’t expect this to blow up the way that it did, but thank you so much to everyone for your kind words,” she tweeted, adding that her brother has read all the comments and “is beyond happy that this blew up.” For the Manzo family, this moment is all about gratitude. “Those seven years in the garage have taught us to be thankful and to appreciate everything and anything we have,” she said in a follow-up tweet. “The simplest things, we may not have much but we have each others’ love no matter how much me and my brother fight lol,” Meydi added. 

If you’re not crying yet, just wait.

Meydi has a message for those of you who are in similar situations.

CREDIT: ANA MANZO / FACEBOOK

“For those of you in similar situations, it gets better, and god is good,” Meydi tweeted. She says that her mom “is overwhelmed with feelings” because Meydi has been reading everyone’s comments to her and vows to continue to read every message of support and pass it on to her mother. “She promised us she would keep us moving forward no matter what and she has done nothing but keep that promise true,” Meydi said. “Hug your parents and remind them how thankful you are for everything they do for you and everything they have given you no matter how little it is,” Meydi offers in her final message of hope and gratitude. “Sending love and blessings to you all, thank you once again.”

So many people asked Meydi for ways they could help that she started a GoFundMe that has raised over $3k for the Manzo family.

CREDIT: ANA MANZO / FACEBOOK

“A lot of people were asking how they could help and I couldn’t think of another way,” Meydi said in the GoFundMe, adding, “my mom is a little tight on money and I hate asking others for stuff like money, but I think this would lift a weight off her chest with the upcoming bills.” In less than 24 hours, Twitter has raised at least two month’s rent for the Manzo family, with folks donating from all over the world.

So many folks felt the tears that Meydi’s brother shed because they had been there too and were in a place to donate. “I grew up not having a lot and I know what It feels like. I cried when I saw your little brother cry. I hope this help a lot, one donor who gave $100 said in a GoFundMe comment. 

May Mama Ana Manzo’s besitos give you all the bendiciones you need to reach your goals this new year.

READ: A Twitter User Shared His Cousin’s ‘Rebelde’-Themed Going Away Party And Latinos Were Here For It

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This Man Raised Thousands of Dollars For His Former Teacher Who Was Left Homeless From the Pandemic

Things That Matter

This Man Raised Thousands of Dollars For His Former Teacher Who Was Left Homeless From the Pandemic

Photo via Steven Nava

At this point, it’s common knowledge that the pandemic has had a negative financial impact on many Americans. When the pandemic hit, many people lost their jobs. Some people dealt with food and housing insecurity. And this homeless teacher experienced exactly that.

But if there’s one positive thing the pandemic taught us, it’s that there are tons of amazing humans out there who are willing to lend a hand when they see a fellow human suffering.

Recently, a homeless teacher named José Villaruel, received help from a former student who discovered him sleeping in his car.

The former student’s name is Steven Nava and he ran into Villaruel, purely by coincidence. “Every morning/night I’ve always noticed this older man that would stay out in his car constantly at this parking lot near my house, even when the weather was bad,” wrote Nava on Twitter. “He looked familiar…”

Nava ended up approaching the older man. That is when he discovered that the man was him former teacher José Villaruel, whom Nava affectionately calls “Mr. V”.

“Turns out he’s gone homeless since the whole pandemic hit and he’s been struggling getting back to his feet,” wrote Nava. “His car is really old and that’s where he’s been staying for the past year.”

Apparently, the homeless teacher had only one source of income–a monthly social security check. He sent most of the money to his sick wife in Mexico.

Nava gave Mr. V $300 to get a hotel for the night. Meanwhile, he got to work to try and fix the homeless teacher’s situation more permanently. “I had a mission to help the teacher who was going through a difficult time during the pandemic,” Nava told TODAY.

José Villaruel’s former student took to Twitter to inform his followers of Mr. V’s situation and ask for additional help.

“I come to the Twitter community and ask for help in raising money to help him out,” Nava wrote. “I know if we can all pitch in even $1 it will go a long way.” Nava shared a link to a GoFundMe for Mr. V. And to his surprise, the donations began to roll in.

By the end of the fundraising period, Nava had raised over $27,000 for the homeless teacher–far surpassing his original fundraising goal of $15,000.

Donations flooded in both from Villaruel’s former students and from concerned citizens who were happy to help the older gentleman get back on his feet.

“[Mr. Villaruel] was always so sweet when I had him as a sub 🙁 Thank you so much for looking out for him I hope you reach your goal for him!!!” wrote one Twitter user.

As a final gift, Steven Nava planned a surprise party for Mr. Villaruel 77th birthday that happened to be that week.

Former students of Mr. V gathered to pay tribute to the teacher who had touched their lives years before. When Mr. V showed up, they all sang “Happy Birthday” to him. Then, Nava gifted a stunned Mr. V with a $27,000 check.

José Villaruel told media outlets that the experience touched him deeply.

“It is an experience of my life that will be kept for the rest of my life. I carry it in my heart,” he said. “I felt that something was going to happen, that things were going to change, and it happened suddenly when I least expected it.

Since then, Steven Nava has continued to fundraise for Mr. V. Altogether, he has raised over $50,000 for his former teacher–and counting. You can visit the GoFundMe page here.

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Woman Who Watched Her Mother Die Before Her Eyes While At Sea As A 9-Year-Old Reunited With Her Rescuers

Fierce

Woman Who Watched Her Mother Die Before Her Eyes While At Sea As A 9-Year-Old Reunited With Her Rescuers

Justin Sullivan / Getty

May 20, 1986, started out for Desireé Rodriguez and her family as an idyllic morning.

At the time, Desireé’s father (a 30-year-old construction worker by the name of Thomas Rodriguez) had taken her, her mother, and sister as well an aunt and uncle out to Catalina Island for a day of sailing. The plan was to go out, fish, and bask in the summer sun before heading back home. In the evening, just as they were headed home the family was impacted by a dense fog. Desireé and her 5-year-old sister Trisha awoke from a nap on the boat to calls from her father to abandon ship and within minutes the entire family was lost at sea. Out in the water and away from their boat that had capsized.

 The family of six was stranded in the chilly Pacific water for hours and Desireé watched as her father first went to swim for rescue and never returned. In the hours that slowly stretched by Desireé witnessed the death of her sister, her mother, her uncle and then her aunt.

Decades have passed since her family’s accident but Desireé has lived to tell of the story thanks to the two men who rescued her.

In a recent piece by The New York times, Desireé was reunited with the two men who were remarkably able to save her after she spent a nightmarish 20 hours in the ocean.

Only 9-years-old at the time of the tragic events, Desireé recalls believing that her father would return with help when he first swam away from the boat. “My dad was like the superhero to me. I actually thought he would get help,” Desireé explained before calling the desperate hours that followed. After watching her family members die, she found herself all alone.

“At that point, I just kind of made the decision, I need to get away from this boat,” Desireé recalled to the New York Times. “I need to swim away, somewhere else. … Where? I don’t know.”

Just when Desireé decided to give up hope, the skipper of a commercial sportfishing boat spotted her orange life jacket in the water.

The boat’s first officer leapt into the water and fished Desireé out of the water. Desireé was ultimately transported back to San Pedro and never saw her rescuers again.

“I don’t think I would have lived, I’ll be honest with you. I think at that point, I was just kind of done,” Desireé explained in a recent interview about the incident. According to an article at the time that described the incident, Desireé had suffered no major physical injuries and was “in good spirits.” She left the hospital in San Pedro the next time.

“I had even hoped that my dad did make it somewhere,” Desireé explained of her thinking of the time. “Maybe he is living on an island and just got amnesia and didn’t know that he has a family. You know, you always have hope. But you get older, and reality sets in, and you’re like, OK. He didn’t make it.”

Paul Strasser and Mark Pisano, the two men who rescued her, ultimately earned commemorative plaques for their bravery from Mayor Tom Bradley. Desireé Rodriguez, now Desireé Campuzano, was adopted by another aunt and uncle who raised her. She went onto attend junior college in Fullerton, built herself a career in criminal justice, married and had a son. Still, she always wondered what had happened to the men who saved her.

It wasn’t until the COVID-19 pandemic that Strasser and Pisano came into contact with Philip Friedman who launched a podcast about his hobby as a fisherman.

“Friedman Adventures” which launched this past December, shares incredible stories from fishermen. Ine one episode Pisano spoke about the 1986 rescue.

“It’s kind of a weird story, kind of like there are some supernatural qualities,” Pisano explained of the experience on the podcast.

Friedman felt motivated to unite the two rescuers and Desireé. Ultimately a friend of Desireé’s heard the episode when it aired and made the connection. He reached out to Desireé and then Friedman and ultimately she and her rescuers were reunited.

“I was nervous at first,” Desireé said of meeting Strasser and Pisano “just seeing [the] guys and putting kind of finalization to the ‘what happened.’” The three were finally reunited during another episode of the podcast.

“I feel like she’s sort of our daughter, in a way, because we brought her back to life,” Strasser said during their reunion. “Even though we never knew each other.”

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