Client stories

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Client stories

Unity 4Kids

Faith Samaya

When Faith first came to U4K as preschooler, she was a shy girl with an undiagnosed speech impediment. Her dad worked in construction and her pregnant mother struggled to support a sister battling with the challenges of substance abuse, while they pursued a custody battle for their two nephews.


Faith came to Unity 4Kids (U4K) in August 2012 and was very timid. After three weeks she completed an Ages and Stages Assessment. This assessment is used by U4K preschool to gain an understanding of the strengths and areas needing improvement in students. Faith’s results showed that she needed great improvements in her language skills and after professional evaluation, she began speech therapy. After only a few months into the program, Faith’s language and social skills began to improve dramatically. She was able to express herself better and gained the confidence she needed to become more outgoing. She completed her school year successfully and later joined our VPK class.

During this time, Faith's mom was also receiving support from HUF. She participated and was graduated from all of our Family Events and Parenting Classes, and was referred to the Healthy Start Program of Broward County for prenatal classes. In addition to this support, our Preschool Director made referrals to help Faith’s mom address the challenges with her own adult sister. She received a recommendation to Henderson Mental Health (for her sister) and to Legal Aid services for advice on how to take temporary custody of her nephews, until her sister fully recovered.

Faith's parents are tremendously happy with the improvements their young daughter has made in all areas of her development. She loves going to school and even asks her mom to take her on the weekends. Faith's family is extremely grateful for the help they have received from HUF and for allowing Faith to be part of Unity 4Kids.

With your support, HUF was able to help “Faith” know the true meaning behind her name, and helped support a family during very challenging times.

Peter and Christopher Bettwy

“Thank you, Thank you very much!! HUF, CWF and Unity 4Kids for your support and concern.” Peter and Christopher’s mom

Peter and Christopher Bettwy are 4 and 5 years old. They have a 14 year old sister. Their mother, originally from Argentina, was an active client of HUF’s “Nuestra Familias Program (NF)”. She received prenatal classes and the two boys received early stimulation classes.

At first when Peter and Christopher joined the preschool they would hide under the tables. Little by little both boys began to come out of their shells.

Roxana came to HUF desperate for help. She was living with domestic violence and she needed to leave her home immediately. During the next 24 hours, HUF worked with her to develop a plan. A restraining order against her husband was written and submitted to a judge. She and her children were relocated into an emergency women’s shelter at Women in Distress. WID also provided them with counseling and family therapy. HUF secured subsidized child care through Family Central. And, HUF began a fundraising campaign to help her rebuild her life.

Roxana was enrolled in the Center for Working Families program where she has received coaching and guidance on how to prepare for job interviews. Her resume also was revamped. Roxana created her career goals and started searching for employment.

A year later, she feels more confident and is living with her children in one apartment located in Hollywood FL funded by the Salvation Army.She works part time and continues to look for a full-time job.

Every week the children and their mother receive therapy at home and at school. Her daughter is in middle school and is receiving counseling and therapy as well.

Christopher recently graduated from U4K-VPK program. He is ready to go to kindergarten with a solid academic foundation and strong social skills. Peter, just turned four years old; he recognizes some letters, numbers, shapes and colors. Peter started the VPK program on August 2013.

Today both boys are confident and happy. The whole family is healing -  and smiling.

Luiz Panimbosa

“Hispanic Unity is (like) our mother in this country.”
Luiz’s mom

Luiz is 4 years old and the youngest of two brothers. His parents are originally from Ecuador and Colombia. In August 2012 Luiz was enrolled in our Unity 4 Kids Program. At first, he did not want to speak to anyone in class but after a couple of weeks, Luiz began to demonstrate his open and loving personality towards his teachers and classmates. Throughout the school year, Luiz developed his social, fine and gross motor, language and cognitive skills. In August 2013, Luiz started the VPK program.

Luiz’ parents are actively involved in his education and as such, are among the founders of the U4K Parent Teacher Association (PTA). In addition, they have their taxes prepared every year through Hispanic Unity’s VITA Program. Luiz’ mom works as a Home Health Aid worker and his father had been unemployed for more than a year. After working very hard in the Center for Working Families program, he is re-employed as an IT Support Specialist at a company based in Doral, Fl. Both parents are very grateful that their son attends such a high-quality preschool program and for the support they’ve received from HUF.

Genesis Pinto

Genesis is a very sociable five year-old. Her parents are from Nicaragua. A couple of years ago, Genesis’ mom came to HUF looking for a safe and affordable preschool program for her daughter. She was alone with her children without family support. Her dad was kept by the Department of Immigration for several months and finally acquitted in 2012. He was able to fix his US legal situation.Genesis's mom works in customer service in an Italian food store near HUF. It so happened that U4K had one last spot in the preschool. Genesis began on May 20, 2011. Genesis did not speak English and did not recognize letters, numbers and colors. After several weeks, Genesis began to acquire language skills through instructional strategies used by U4K teachers. Her outgoing personality helped her increase her knowledge, little by little, as she was always on top of the class. Genesis participated in class, but at first, she only expressed herself in Spanish. After a few weeks, she started to speak English and today is fully bilingual!

Unity 4Teens/Middle School

Teandre Hall

Teandre is a very sociable 12 year old attending Middle School. He lives with his mother and two siblings in a one-bedroom apartment. Teandre’s mom works part time.

When Teandre joined the HUF’s Unity 4Teens program, he expressed concerns about making friends, his behavior in class and towards other kids, as well as his academic performance.

Teandre’s case manager spoke to his mother in order to learn more about his behavior at home. During this conversation, she found out that Teandre did not have a computer at home to do his homework, lacked clothes and did not have a jacket to take to school. With his mom’s agreement, he was referred to counseling services and with the help of Hispanic Unity employees, his case manager provided clothes and a jacket for Teandre and his siblings. Every week, Teandre and his case manager meet for informal counseling and follow up on his academic work. During these meetings he also learned how to use computers at the school. He now has an open channel of communication with his teachers.

Nowadays, Teandre’s behavior has improved at school and at home. Through his participation in various activities, he has been able to make new friends within the program and at school. He’s now moved on to 7th grade with improved grades and great expectations.

P.S. But this is not the end of the story, recently two very generous individuals, Terry and Gus donated a computer to Teandre!


Unity 4Teens/High School

Lauren Duvallon

When asked why he chose the Unity 4 Teens program, Lauren’s dad said:

“I am a product of an afterschool program at a community based organization. I learned early on from my Father, who was the CEO of the Community Action Agency in Miami, the importance of surrounding yourself with someone who cares about your welfare. I wanted the same thing for Lauren and the Unity 4Teens program provides exactly that to her.”

Lauren is 16 years old and is in 11th grade. She is being raised by her dad due to the death of her mother in 2010.

Lauren loves the Unity 4Teens program because she gets the support she needs in math –her most challenging subject– and she would be bored at home if she didn’t have a place to go after school.Lauren says that the Unity 4Teens program accepts her just the way she is. High School can be tough; however, being in the program has helped her to adjust and “feel good about herself”.

A precocious student, Lauren has come out of her shell with the help of the DreamGirlz component of the program. She has become a social butterfly who can be found looking for the program staff, even when there is no program that day. Ms. Harrell, DreamGirlz’  teacher, is Lauren’s favorite teacher because she’s always there, has taught her how to be a young lady, encourages her NOT to engage in drugs and alcohol, to dress appropriately, and DREAM big DREAMS! Also, Ms. Harrell knows when she is down and “takes the pain away.”

English Classes (ESL)

Fausto Lopez

“Most importantly, I am learning English. Going to school is my greatest joy in life now. There are all my friends: students and teachers.”

Originally from Peru, Fausto Lopez has lived in Florida for more than 20 years. After leaving his native country and separating from all his family, things weren’t always easy for him and his wife Mary.

At 84 years “young”, his life is still tough. Fausto works everyday distributing newspapers in his community. “I can’t tell you I am happy doing this, but I cannot complain, because I have a job” he says. Whenever time and strength allow, Fausto attends Hispanic Unity’s ESOL English classes.

Eduardo Pupo

“I’m a very lucky person to find this nice place – Hispanic Unity ”

Recently arrived from Cuba, Eduardo Pupo attends our ESOL (English) classes. Since he came to the U.S. in 2012, he has been studying English intensively to prepare for his new life and career.

Eduardo wants to be a nurse, and thanks to his impressive strides in English, he is ready to go to college and is only waiting for his residency papers in order to continue his studies in the medical field.

Economic Development / Emerging Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur: Olga Lucia Garzon

Company: Fashion OLG

“Thanks to the Emerging Entrepreneurs program at Hispanic Unity of Florida, I learned how to identify the right market for my business and implement a successful marketing strategy to improve sales and profitability.”

Entrepreneurship runs deep in Olga Garzon’s blood; she owned a shoe factory in Colombia for many years. After Olga took HUF’s Emerging Entrepreneurs Workshops in 2012 (offered by Broward SCORE in partnership with HUF), she realized that she could make her own dreams come true in the U.S. Olga put into action many of the strategies she learned and prepared her business plan with a Broward SCORE mentor. In June 2013, Olga launched the summer collection of handbags and other fine accessories under the “OLGFashion” brand. Keenly aware of the importance of networking, Olga has been actively working in getting word of her company out in the public.  OLGFashion products are sold in boutiques like BP Barbara Palacios in Brickell and Weston,  high-end stores in Winter Park (Florida) and Aspen (Colorado) and soon, in Georgia.

You too can own an OLGFashion original by visiting her gorgeous website at:

Owner: Antonio Ciuccolini

“Thanks to the "EE" program we were able to shape and improve our business model and gain insight on what it really entails to grow a business in South Florida. We also learned  about local and state opportunities and incentives for micro-enterprises to grow our business.”

Antonio has 12 years of experience in software development and his wife has a background in marketing and graphic design. Their company, originally based in Venezuela, was founded in 2008. Due to the many changes in their country, they decided to move to the United States. And so, in 2011 they began to serve their Venezuelan clientele from their South Florida home office.

Shortly thereafter, they realized that they should market in South Florida as well, and began networking through the chambers of commerce in Pembroke Pines and Miramar.

After attending HUF’s Emerging Entrepreneurs workshops (in partnership with Broward SCORE) they learned how to run a business in the United States, and decided to open an office in Miramar instead of running the business from their home. Their future plans include hiring a part-time programmer to expedite production, and are presently working on a project with a Healthcare System in Venezuela to create a software database for doctors.

The Health industry is undergoing tumultuous change, perhaps AlternaBit can make the changes more manageable for your company. Reach out to them:

Entrepreneur: Ana Chipana

Company: Wara Quinoa

“HISPANIC UNITY  is  making my dreams come true!  I say this because through them many doors were opened to me such as increased media exposure for my company. This in turn contributed to my products gaining attention outside the United States.  In November 2013, I will be traveling to Beijing, China to promote my products at the International Year of Quinoa declared by the United Nations.  Thank you Hispanic Unity for believing in our dreams!

Ana’s husband Ramiro was diagnosed with a serious gastro-intestinal condition. Ana decided that their eating habits had to change. This spurred her to go back to her roots as a young girl in Bolivia.

“My mother utilized organic foods and natural products in our daily diet at home. She introduced me to the benefits of Royal Quinoa. Using my mother’s methods changed the way we looked at our food choices and completely turned my husband’s condition around, bringing him back to full health.This transformation made us realize that if using Royal Quinoa as the basis for our food changed my husband’s life, these benefits had to be shared with the public. We were sure that people were unaware of the nutritional importance of Royal Quinoa.”

Ana Chipana took HUF’s Emerging Entrepreneurs Workshop in 2012 (presented by HUF partner, Broward SCORE).

She learned about advertising and marketing, and applied this knowledge to her brand. Following that, Ana participated in many important events such as the United Nation’s Annual Assembly in 2012 where they proclaimed 2013 as the “International Year of Quinoa”. She  appeared on TV shows on Univision and Telefutura. In addition to her bakery, Ana writes a blog in Spanish about the benefits of Quinoa.

You can find Ana along with information and quinoa recipes at:

Economic Development / Center for Working Families

Fiordaliza Fernandez-Urena

“No words can express what I feel when I realize that little by little, I am meeting all my goals and putting everything in its place…the kids in school… having been able to purchase a car... now (finding a) job… then in September I will start the Dental Assistance program at Broward College.  Ms. Yonela, you are my Guardian Angel. Thank you!

Fiordaliza Fernandez-Urena came to HUF, sometimes on foot, after walking for more than an hour with the youngest of her two children. She was a single mother with a small toddler, a preschool-age child, living with her sister and cleaning homes to survive.  She relied on the bus or others for transportation and without childcare there was little she could do to jump start her career. She had dreams, but they were on hold.

On the first day she came to HUF, we were able to find a slot for her young daughter at the Unity 4Kids program. And she found a supportive “life coach” in the person of Yonela Carusi the director of the Unity 4Kids preschool.

She was encouraged to participate in the Center for Working Families Program (CWF) program which she did in January of 2013. The focus for her and her HUF coaches was to help her find childcare for her youngest son and a solution to Fiordaliza’s transportation challenges, as well as a living-wage job.

Through her participation in the CWF Program, she was able to obtain free Head Start childcare for her two children through Family Central. After intensive one-on-one coaching and guidance from her Financial Coach, Fiordaliza was able to purchase a vehicle on her own with the money she saved. Her savings grew after she had her taxes prepared, for free, through Hispanic Unity’s VITA FREE tax preparation program. She received assistance with resume writing and interviewing skills and learned how to apply for jobs on her own.

Her life has changed completely. After having secured a safe environment for both of her children, she focused on her job search. Two weeks after purchasing a car Fiordaliza found a job as a data clerk coordinator at a local automotive group.

She is now registered at Broward College and will start the Dental Assistant Program in September to further her education and become more marketable.

This single mom is on the road to self-sufficiency with the help of intense, wrap-around services and lots of loving coaching and support from her knowledgeable and committed HUF Coaches.

Jeffrey Garcia

¡Mil gracias!”

Jeffrey Garcia began the Center for Working Families (CWF) program in March of 2013 in need of assistance with childcare and food. Caring for his children had prevented him from enrolling in a program to improve his interviewing skills.  After attending coaching sessions with his career coach, Jeffrey was able to apply for a government position and through Hispanic Unity’s CWF Program. In addition,  he was able to secure full-time childcare for his daughter at a very low cost, and enroll in the free FIU “Learning Skills for Life” Program.

What is his next goal? To become an agent with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

Joanna Regueira

“Hispanic Unity has given me the tools I need to reach my goals.  They have helped me provide a better future for my children.”

Joanna Regueira joined the Center for Working Families (CWF) program in October 2012 hoping to improve her employment and financial situation. She had three goals: to purchase a newer car and obtain financial aid to finish her degree. Long-term, her big dream is to purchase a home for herself and her children. Joanna attended the CWF workshops. She did not miss a single career or financial coaching appointment. As an added bonus, she was referred to the VITA program at Hispanic Unity to complete her 2012 taxes. The outcome was magnificent; she received a substantial refund, part of which went into her savings account. (The VITA program is a FREE tax preparation program for working families and individuals.)

With the guidance of her Financial Coach Joanna created and improved her monthly budget. She later applied for and was approved for the “Ways to Work” car loan program. Joanna purchased her new vehicle in May 2013 by using a portion of her tax refund as a down payment!

After this major accomplishment, Joanna wanted to continue her education. With hard work and continuous financial coaching, she applied and was approved for the “Individual Development Account” grant, which yielded a $4,000 grant towards her education. Joanna is now attending classes at Broward College and pursuing a Registered Nurse degree and is expected to graduate in November 2014.

What’s next for this motivated and successful woman who has learned the lessons of: Earning It!  Growing It!  and Keeping it!?

She’s saving for a new home of course!

Civic Engagement

Luz Zuluaga

“After I became a U.S. Citizen, I helped my husband pass his test. We are so happy!”

Born in Colombia and trained as a dentist, Luz came to America more than eight years ago with her spouse and two sons. Since arriving, she took care of her family by working long hours cleaning houses until she met someone who referred her to a dentist. Her husband, Juan Camilo put aside his own dreams to support Luz and her decision to restart her professional career by becoming a  dental hygienist. She attended classes and two years later she graduated with her degree. Luz is now happily working in a dentist’s office.

After five years as a Legal Permanent Resident, Luz came to HUF to fulfill her other dream: to become a US Citizen. In 2012 she enrolled in the USCIS citizenship classes. On June 12, 2013, Luz went to her interview and passed the test. A month later, with Luz’s help and encouragement, Juan Camilo, her husband, accomplished what he thought would not be possible – he too became a US Citizen!

Lizandra Ruiz de Landivar

I went to HUF, took the Citizenship classes, and passed my test!”.

Lizarda was born in Bolivia. After living in the US for a few years, she was determined to become a U.S. Citizen. She studied on her own but was unable to pass her Citizenship interview. Shortly thereafter she was diagnosed with a medical condition that gave her just five years to live.

Lizarda was very sad and disappointed about her situation and decided not to pursue the path to Citizenship… given her condition, why bother pursuing?

One day Lizarda met a lady who told her how happy she was to be a US Citizen and talked about the Citizenship test in very simple terms. Lizarda decided to prepare for the test and found Olga Yaypen, an instructor with Hispanic Unity at the South Regional Library. HUF assisted Lizarda with her application form, and provided her legal advice from an immigration lawyer.

As of 2013, Lizandra’s illness is in remission; she’s a happy mom and delighted to have fulfilled her dream of becoming a US Citizen.

Hispanic Unity of Florida: Client Stories

Hispanic Unity was founded more than 34 years ago by community leaders to ease the acculturation transition for newcomers from other nations. Today this nonprofit provides assistance through 12 programs and 30+ services, in four languages, to Broward's diverse community. Hispanic Unity remains the county's largest agency dedicated to the immigrant population, providing them with the tools they need to build a new life. In 2015, the agency served 17,000+ clients, from toddlers to adults.