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CIELO Client Finds Self-Sufficiency, Leadership & Community

Updated: Dec 8, 2021

We wish to introduce you to Antonio Ruiz Arguello. He is one of the many Latino líderes that CIELO has had the pleasure to welcome to our community. Below is his courageous and inspirational story as told by him.

I was born in Nicaragua in 1961 of peasant origin and of economically comfortable parents, owners of two cattle farms, but unfortunately, we were left on the street since my parents were robbed of all their properties in the 60s. My father was sentenced to prison for claiming his rights, which led to frustration and alcoholism, leaving my mother and brothers in total helplessness. So, my mother was forced to wash, iron, and sell tortillas to survive. Since I was seven years old, I felt obliged to work on the streets shining shoes, selling tortillas, bread, and cutting wood.

Amid the misery, humiliation, and abuse that every child who survives in the streets receives, I never lost my focus and enthusiasm to study and do the impossible to prepare and get out of the mud where we were. That was why when I was only seven years old, I promised my mother that I would become a doctor and give her a decent life.

At sixteen years old, I was forced to go to war because the Somoza dictatorship was murdering everyone over thirteen, and I decided that it was better to die fighting. By the grace of God, I returned alive but behind was the horror and trauma of witnessing 50,000 or more deaths in the war.

In 1980, I was awarded a scholarship to complete my baccalaureate and enter the Managua Medical School. It was not long when we had to return to war with military service in the war of the 80s, where another 50,000 young people died again who, like me, dreamed of a future, a family, and a profession.

In 1989, I finished my career as a doctor in medicine and surgery. I worked as a specialist and administrative matters director for hospitals and medical companies. I managed to fulfill the promise I had made to my mother to give her a house and a decent life in her old age.

Much later, in 2014, I was retired from work under disability due to spinal injuries, and in 2015 I came to this country where I found myself on the street without a permanent residence, a work permit, a car, a driver's license, and money to survive. Yet, I found the support of friends who helped me get ahead. At first, I worked as a cashier, washed gas station pumps, and cleaned floors. I also studied and received my Surgical Assistant Certificate and my Medical Assistant Certificate. I eventually found work as a health and life insurance sales consultant. Still, I never encountered a language barrier since Spanish is typical in Miami, and I didn't have many opportunities to practice English daily.

Due to a difficult situation and stress, in May of 2018, I suffered a heart attack and went into emergency surgery. By the grace of God, I came out of surgery alive!

In January of 2019, I decided to move to Washington at the invitation of my cousin, who took me to CIELO to continue learning English, where I was welcomed with great love, respect, and solidarity. I was only at CIELO for three weeks before the pandemic began, and I started working in a homecare center where nobody spoke Spanish, but I took on the challenge and worked for a year and a half.

Ernesto representing Sea Mar at the Olympia Food & Hygiene Bank in 2020

In October of last year, I met Mr. Ernesto from Sea Mar, and he supported me in obtaining medical insurance and part-time work as a community worker. He also informed me of an NGO that helps immigrants and refugees (CHWCMR) led by Dr. Ileana Ponce, who, by coincidence, had studied medicine with me. At a CHWCMR meeting, I reconnected with Kindra and Charo from CIELO, whom I thank infinitely for their support and solidarity since they integrated me into the CIELO online training program.

In July of this year, Dr. Ponce proposed supporting the Washington Department of Health as an interpreter for sick Spanish-speaking community members who needed to communicate with medical personnel. Last October, I was hired as a temporary worker for the Health Department of Washington, where I now spend my days.

I wanted to share this small part of my life with my immigrant brothers and sisters because I know that nothing is easy in life, and I recognize that others have stronger and sadder stories. We can't allow ourselves to get caught up in the mud, and we have to fight with all our might and never lose faith in God and ourselves. Immigrants are hard-working and honest people. Let's show the world what we are made of, and let us always remember that gold shines even in the darkest places!

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