Since the moment she stepped off a plane from Cuba six years ago, Noima Iglesias has had her heart set on becoming a U.S. citizen.
“I felt that my dreams were going to be fulfilled in this country, and those of my daughter, as well,” Iglesias said in Spanish. “I came to this country to become somebody.”
For Iglesias, 46, that means not only applying for citizenship but also learning English, studying to become a nurse and supporting her 7-year-old daughter, Amanda. Iglesias is a single mother and works as a processor at a Goodwill in Davie, where she lives in half of a mobile home. Money is tight, and Iglesias worries when Amanda quickly outgrows new shoes and clothes or when bills start to pile up. But when she talks about her struggles to make a new life in South Florida, the word Iglesias uses the most is “blessing.”
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Her first blessing, she said, was arriving in the United States in 2010 when Amanda was still a baby. Iglesias had lost all of her possessions a decade earlier when her poorly built apartment building collapsed and her belongings were destroyed in a pile of rubble. She had worked long hours as a nurse in Cuba but was unable to rebuild on the equivalent of $150 a month.
“I didn’t have anything. It was very difficult,” Iglesias said. “I lost everything in that building collapse.”
In the United States, Iglesias saw an opportunity to provide a better future for her daughter and found her second “great blessing”: citizenship classes at Hispanic Unity of Florida, an organization that offers support for recent immigrants.
“When they accepted me, I saw a huge door open for me,” Iglesias said.
Although she recently finished her citizenship course, Iglesias has continued going to the classes because she wants to learn more about her adopted homeland. She also listens to an English study guide for the citizenship test everywhere she goes. In the car on her way to work or at home with her daughter, Iglesias is always preparing for the exam.
Amanda helps her mother study and asks her questions in English. “No Spanish,” she says when Iglesias reverts back to her native tongue, according to her mother. The 7-year-old is also an English coach at school, helping new arrivals in her second-grade class learn the language.
Until recently, Iglesias was studying English at Broward College, but she is currently taking a break to prepare for her citizenship exam. She was promoted to full-time at Goodwill in November after struggling to make ends meet as a part-time employee. Her ultimate goal is to become a nurse in the United States and to be able to send money back to Cuba for her elderly mother. She has already taken the first step — completing a phlebotomy course in Florida.
For now, however, more immediate concerns trump long-term plans. Iglesias needs to replace her rapidly growing daughter’s shoes and clothes and make sure she can keep a roof over their heads.
“I can’t live at peace,” she said. “It’s not a lot that’s left over [at the end of the month], and sometimes there’s nothing left at all.”
But, Iglesias said with a gentle smile, “I’m blessed. I’m happy to be here.”
Kyra Gurney: 305-376-3205, @KyraGurney
How to help: Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.
How to help
Wish Book is trying to help hundreds of families in need this year. To donate, pay securely at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook. To give via your mobile phone, text WISH to 41444. For information, call 305-376-2906 or email wishbook@MiamiHerald.com. (Most requested items: laptops and tablets for school, furniture, accessible vans) Read more at MiamiHerald.com/wishbook.