From Dependence to Prosperity: Two Women’s Stories of Strength

La Casa de Don Pedro offers a free Home Health Aide (HHA) certification program where tuition, books, and uniform are all included at no charge. Andriana Alvarez and Angeli Coronado are two Newark women who recently completed the program. The training opportunity, which combined with their own grit and determination, has helped them both set out on a transformative path towards economic prosperity.

Andriana, born and raised in Ecuador, came to the United States when she was 18 years old. She settled in Newark and eventually started a family. As her children got older she sought to rejoin the workforce but found finding a job extremely difficult because she lacked training and experience. It wasn’t until she passed by a flyer for La Casa de Don Pedro’s Certified Home Health Aide Training course at the Gladys Hillman School where her son attends, that she found new hope.

“It was a matter of destiny. I’m the kind of mom that sees flyers up and I start taking them down. One day I saw one that read Free CHHA Training for Latinas. I said to myself, I’m there! I called and they said they were going to select a group of 10 women. After another experience I had with an HHA certification class I was a bit skeptical, but I know La Casa and it was La Casa’s program. It’s a reliable company and I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. And I was far from disappointed,” said Andriana.

Several months prior, Andriana had enrolled in an HHA program through another agency in Newark but had a less than pleasant experience. She had paid hundreds of dollars for an HHA course but found out once she finished the program that the company had taken her money, gone bankrupt and never sent in her certification for the course. Feeling devastated after being robbed and taken advantage of, things started to seem hopeless. It was getting difficult for her and her family to pay their bills.

For Angeli, finding the Home Health Aide Training was like destiny, as well. After settling in the United States from the Dominican Republic just six months earlier, Angeli found out about La Casa’s HHA program from a friend. She knew the program, which is held in partnership with New Community Corporation’s Workforce Development Center, would be a perfect fit – given her background in the medical field in the Dominican Republic.

“Because of La Casa’s partnership with New Community Corporation, it made getting hired easy for us and it opened so many doors. When we were finishing up our classes they sent two representatives from medical facilities, one from Newark and one from Metuchen that were hiring and all we had to do was apply right in the middle of our class. It was so convenient and helpful and we knew all we had to do was pass the test and we would be hired,” said Andriana.

Five weeks later Angeli and Andriana both completed the course and were eager for more. They immediately registered for New Community Corporation’s Certified Medical Assistant course.But this new endeavor required massive dedication.

”We had to work hard and that meant on weekends, too. Sometimes Angie would work a double shift at Saddle River Assisted Living on Saturdays and Sundays from 6 am to 10 pm. That’s four shifts in two days while also studying during the week for our CMA certification. But I couldn’t do that, I have kids. So what I was able to do was split my time between Friday, Saturday, and Sunday and I did four shifts on those three days. I would work Fridays from 2pm-10pm, Saturdays 6am-10pm and then Sundays from 6 am – 2 pm. I had Sunday afternoons with my kids to review homework with them and just spend time with my family,” said Andriana.

Working at Saddle River Assisted Living provided Angeli and Andriana the opportunity to care for individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s and Dementia. Angeli works with late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia patients needing constant vigilance. “These diseases not only affect their memory but also other important brain functions. They need caring for and I love that I get to be the one to care for them when they have no one else,” said Angeli of her patients. Andriana worked with early and mid-stage Alzheimer’s and Dementia patients. “When I’m there they assign me a floor and I go knocking on doors to remind them to do things like match their clothes properly, brush their hair, etc.. Our patients worked as doctors, army veterans, are ex-corporate executives and we love caring for them.”

For Angie and Andriana, the opportunity La Casa de Don Pedro provided meant that their lives would never be the same.

For Andriana, it was a chance to redefine how she would live her life.

“Before I got into this class I was unemployed and I had this PSE&G debt that was just hanging over my head constantly. I couldn’t even buy myself a coffee if I wanted to. That all changed once I finished the HHA program. Now I don’t have that debt from PSE&G, thank God, and I have the financial security to know that every fifteen days I am getting paid. It really is the biggest weight lifted off my shoulders knowing that I don’t have to worry about the next time I will be getting paid because I am working for what I have. I am so proud of that.”

And for Angeli, the opportunity has offered her a new life path.

“It has helped me beyond just job experience. It has helped me in bettering my English. I wasn’t the best when it came to English but now I am constantly practicing with the elderly people I’m with all day. It makes it easier to for me to practice since being here I need to know English and be proficient with it as well. In my community, I can get away with speaking Spanish because many people there are native Spanish speakers, but at Saddle River I can practice bettering myself. I also just love being with the elderly people that are there. You start to love them and care for them like if they were your own family. They are also really grateful to you for caring for them like you do. Many of them don’t have much family around so they appreciate the human interaction and affection. Overall this opened me up to a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities. I left everything behind in the Dominican Republic and my life is here now.”

Angeli and Andriana are women with astounding perseverance. With the seemingly simple decision to enroll in a Home Health Aide program with La Casa de Don Pedro, they are now well on their way to handle life’s challenges with newfound confidence. Andriana was recently offered a permanent position at RWJBarnabas Health as a Certified Medical Assistant. And Angeli is working at Saddle River Assisted Living. We cannot wait to see what the future holds for these shining stars.

The Home Health Aide Training Program through La Casa de Don Pedro’s Hispanic Women’s Resource Center is provided through a grant from the Latino Action Network. The Latino Action Network receives funding from the New Jersey Department of Children and Families, Division on Women. La Casa de Don Pedro partners with New Community Corporation to provide the training.

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