“After the Hurricane”.
Cristina Cardona was born and raised on the island of Puerto Rico. She had no idea how her life would change when a devastating storm named Hurricane Maria swept through her island. The hurricane destroyed everything in its path, leaving power lines down, shopping plazas unrecognizable, the streets filled with displaced trees and homes destroyed all over. Like many, Cristina’s family was affected by the storm as well. With the help of her mother’s friend, on November 25, 2017, she relocated to Connecticut with her son and only a few items to help on her journey. Once she arrived Cristina knew she had to recreate a stable life for herself and her son.
“I watched as neighbors lost windows, roofs, and whole houses. I attempted to assist friends and neighbors survive and reconstruct their lives with a shortage of water, food, gasoline and even electricity. Supermarkets and gasoline stations were empty. Waiting for basic needs required forming long lines,” said Cardona.
Not long after arriving in Connecticut Cristina was introduced to the Puerto Rican Relief Center. She was able to meet with staff who helped provide clothing, food and community resources for her and her son. Cristina was grateful for all the services provided, but she wanted to get back to work. Without hesitation, Cristina signed up for the ESL classes provided by Career Resources. When she first walked into the classroom she met other individuals who had also come to Connecticut after losing everything in Puerto Rico. In no time Cristina built a relationship with her classmates and professor while she was working on perfecting the English language.
“I was intimidated by the English language at first because it wasn’t something I used to but it was something I needed to perfect. My instructor Ms. Maria Lee made me feel comfortable and like a friend,” said Cardona.
Cristina knew relocating to Connecticut wouldn’t be easy, but she was willing to give it her all. Before leaving Puerto Rico Cristina had been a teacher at a HeadStart program (Fundacion Para el Desarollo de Hogar Propio), teaching little children. Cristina wanted to get back to teaching and knew that becoming fluent in English was the place to start. Although she was still adjusting to living in Connecticut she found herself wanting to give back as well, so she decided to volunteer with the community aid program. Volunteering gave Cristina a new kind of hope because she knew what it was like to have nothing, and helping others like herself gave her inspiration to keep her pressing forward.
Today, Cristina is still attending ESL classes as she gains cultural training, life skills, and job skills. Through Career Resources she will be attending Digital Literacy classes while receiving WIOA program services. She is happy that her son is in a magnet school where she can support him in his education as well. Cristina was struck by tragedy but with help of the Bridgeport community and Career Resources, she was able to find beauty after the storm. She says, “I am so very grateful for the Puerto Rican Relief Center, Mrs. Rosa Correa, my family and my teacher Ms. Maria Lee. I miss my family in Puerto Rico, but I am so very grateful for the family I made in Bridgeport, Connecticut.”