Hi, my name is Zurilma Anuel. I’m from Venezuela, a proud mother of two beautiful girls, and engaged to a wonderful man. I moved to the USA in 1998.
My oldest daughter was born in Venezuela when I was 21 years old. Soon after her birth, she was diagnosed with spina bifida. Doctors didn’t think that she was going to be able to walk. Of course, I wanted more for her. She needed the best medical care possible, and I thought I could get better medical care in the United States. Because of that, my daughter and I moved to Asheville, NC, when she was two. I could have said that this was “My American Dream,” but I never knew about this phrase until a few years later. I made this decision without overthinking it. I realized that this was my purpose in life; I was put on this earth to love, help, and support my daughter.
Over time, I was able to find access to the medical resources needed for my daughter, but at the same time, things were getting more complicated, and I faced more challenges:
I did not speak English – I couldn’t communicate with the doctors to explain what was needed. I knew the interpreters were not telling the story as I could. Doctors were not even looking at me when explaining my daughter’s case. They were looking at the interpreter or the male person in the room (my ex-husband then). I felt invisible and powerless. The language affected not only me with doctors but also with daycare, finding a job, communicating with people, not being able to do any fun activities, and having no friends. Sadly, dealing with people that thought that because I didn’t speak English, I was not an educated person.
The doctors were going to operate on my daughter. I was not convinced of what the doctors diagnosed. I don’t know how or where the strength came from, but I demanded all medical records and searched for the best radiology doctors in the United States. I found a doctor at Miami Children’s Hospital that transformed my daughter’s life.
I am telling you this story because I was scared, but I learned it is ok to be scared when facing challenges. And I will tell you this as truth; We are stronger than we think. I realized that we have superpowers that will show up when we need them and do things we do not believe we can. Why? Because when the need is strong enough and the passion deep enough, we will find our true selves – our superpower – and grow into the people we were meant to be.
As of now, my daughter is walking – running! She graduated in chemistry from the University of North Carolina; she is in the process of getting into medical school and getting her personal trainer certification.
As for me, I have a second healthy daughter, and through this experience, I grew, and was able to throw off the shackles of fear and self-doubt. Now, I am:
- fluent in Spanish and English
- the Director of a Small Business Administration program that is empowering women in business
- the Founder of the Carolina Small Business Development Fund Latino Business program that is helping the Latino business community in Spanish across the state
- founder of a nonprofit organization ReliefBox that helps people of Venezuela who need food, medicine, clothes, and any other essential needs
- Board Member of Literacy Together, which provides free tutoring for adults, youth, and education to immigrants to learn to read and pass the citizenship test
I will always thank Literacy Together with all my heart for teaching me English as a second language and providing me with the support I needed during these difficult times. Because of them, I am no longer invisible.
Thank you to our ESOL student and fantastic photographer, Sergio , for taking (and gifting us!) such beautiful photos!