THE RIVERA FAMILY
Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York
When Adela and Martina Rivera learned last year that their mother, Olga, needed surgery for benign brain tumors, it was the potential aftermath that shattered them. Doctors said Ms. Rivera, now 40, could temporarily lose her ability to walk, talk or recognize her daughters.
But she awoke within hours and immediately called out for them.
“It was like a miracle,” Martina, 20, said during a recent joint video interview.
Her mother’s speedy recovery was a major relief. But that fall, as stresses increased at home, the Rivera sisters, who were both seniors, were thinking of dropping out of high school.
Adela, 18, had been interning with Alianza, a nonprofit organization that supports low-income families in Manhattan and the Bronx. It is a division of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of New York, one of the 10 organizations supported by The Fund.
When Alianza staff learned that the Rivera sisters were going to drop out, they urged them to stay in school.
The sisters hung on and moved from their home into a shelter with their mother in April. They managed to graduate with honors, and Alianza continued to show support. In June, Catholic Charities Community Services, part of Catholic Charities, used $485 from The Fund to buy the sisters gift cards, a table and a speaker as they settled into their new living situation.
Adela and Olga now work as home health aides. Adela had planned to enroll in the fall at a community college in Manhattan to study accounting and was granted financial aid, but she decided to postpone. “Life was like a mess,” she said. The stress of living in the shelter during the pandemic while working a full-time job made it difficult for her to focus on college.
Yet life is taking a turn for the better. In November, Adela, Martina and Olga moved into a transitional housing apartment, where they can stay for a year or two as they plan their next steps. The sisters may wait until next fall to start college, once they feel more financially secure.
Olga’s health remains a gnawing uncertainty; she may need another surgery in 2021. As for Martina, she has struggled with depression, but has hope for the future and ultimately dreams of becoming a high-fashion model.
“I think I’m going to get better,” she said, as she outlined plans to attend college or find a job soon.
Her sister pulled her in for a hug and assured her, “We will support you.”
The 2020-21 Campaign
The 109th annual campaign of The Neediest Cases Fund is supporting 10 nonprofit organizations, whose service to support a global community has been highlighted over the past few months.
“2020 has been one of the most challenging and difficult years in recent memory, with many of our neighbors suffering and in crisis,” said Meredith Kopit Levien, the Times Company’s chief executive and chair of The Fund’s board. “Times readers around the world have responded by donating generously to The Neediest Cases Fund. We’re so grateful for the support — a tradition that spans more than 100 years. And we’re committed to using the power of Times journalism to continue to shine a light on communities in need.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times with the title: 10 Stories of Support In A Year of Obstacles: Facing challenges wrought by the pandemic, The Fund’s beneficiaries brought help to people and communities.
Reprinted with permission from The New York Times Company.