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“I spent seven days sleeping in the jungle in Panama. It was very hard for me because I never went through this. I had to sleep on the floor with the ants biting my skin. You try to be calm because you cannot move. If you move, basically any animal can bite you—like a snake. It was a new experience for me.

The United States, for me, was new. Everything was new because I used to be a teacher in Cuba, but when I saw how people speak here, it was faster. I was so confused. I started by cleaning carpets—that was the first job I found—from 3:00am to 7:00am. After that, I found a job in construction doing AC. I had never done that before, but they taught me. After that, I found an opportunity to work in a hotel doing banquet setup. I wanted to do it so I could learn more English. Watching people was like being in school for me. I was also working for Catholic Charities part-time as an English teacher and learning massage therapy. Catholic Charities offered me a full-time job working as an employment specialist. I see opportunity. I try to make goals. It was hard, but I did it. The example of the Master Jesus, He was the Son of God, and He was cleaning the people’s feet. This one is a King, the Son of God, and He was cleaning His disciple’s feet. What about me? I am nothing. I just try to be a humble person.

I have been living here five years, and I am waiting for my family because I already applied to bring them here to America. I can’t even imagine how it’s going to be, but I am really excited. I can’t wait for the day until they can come here. I don’t even have the words. It’s very difficult living alone without your family. I’ve traveled to Cuba three times, but it’s not the same as when you get to go to your home and your daughter goes, ‘Papa! Besito!’ (a kiss, papa!). A man without his family is not a complete man.”

Eliecer, who was born in Cuba, is a case manager for Catholic Charities of Central Florida’s Comprehensive Refugee Services (CRS). Prior to joining our staff, Eliecer was a client of CRS and Immigration Legal Services.