Leslie Miranda is a single mother. Several times a week, she drives to the South Dade Regional Library and sits in her car for hours while she waits for her children to finish their school work.
This weekly routine probably sounds familiar for many mothers. But for Miranda, it’s a physically difficult task. She is wheel-chair bound and is able to drive thanks to a special operating system in her Chevrolet Minivan that lets her maneuver the vehicle using only her hands. But getting in and out of the vehicle is impossible without a helping hand.
“I always need someone with me to help me get into the car and come out of it and I also need help to shop at the supermarket,” said the 42-year-old. Miranda lost mobility of her legs in her native Puerto Rico 12 years ago after a stray bullet struck her in the back.
Miranda has managed to rebuild her life in Miami, where she now lives with three of her four children. She has never lost the hope of improving her physical condition and lives with the desire of helping her children obtain an education so they can have a better future.
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The family relies on Social Security payments to cover the rent. Federal public assistance helps pay for groceries.
“Social Security gives me $1,000 a month and rent costs $830,” Miranda said. “We pay for food with food stamps, but we also have to pay utilities.” .
With barely enough to cover all the bills, Miranda can’t afford to buy a tool that’s become essential for today’s schoolchildren: a laptop. A computer would help her children with their homework and would save her from those tedious trips to the library.
“Leslie faces many economic problems and doesn’t have enough money to buy her kids any clothes, school supplies, or a nice Christmas dinner,” said Lissete Puig, the social worker who heads her case at Miami-Dade County’s Disability Services.
Miranda moved from Puerto Rico to Miami in 2006 in search of better medical treatment for the injury on her back. For a year, she received treatment at HealthSouth Rehabilitation Hospital of Miami and currently receives therapy at her house once a month.
Miranda studied arts and sciences and specialized in communications at American University of Puerto Rico but never worked in her field because she worked full time in the business that she and her former husband owned in San Juan.
“We had a bar-pub that had a restaurant and featured live music,” Miranda said. The business that provided a livelihood also drastically changed her life in 2003.
“One night, one of the clients was fleeing from someone and without us knowing it, he hid in our bar,” Miranda said. “The people following him found him at the bar, and bullets started going everywhere. I was there and I tried to escape, but two bullets got to me before I could go, and one of them left me disabled.”
In Miami, Miranda spends her days taking care of her children: Louisander, 18, who attends Miami Southridge High School; Gabriela, 11, a student at Cutler Ridge Middle School and 3-year-old Mia. Weslie, her eldest, is 21 and studies architecture at the University of Puerto Rico.
“I’ve learned to perform household chores by myself and take care of my youngest daughter on my own,” she said.
Every once in a while, social workers visit and help her with the most difficult tasks such as bathing.
“But I have to figure it out on my own because they’re short staffed and they now come less frequently,” Miranda said.
She is hoping Wish Book readers will provide the family with a laptop to help ease their lives so the children can focus on their studies.
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 Miami Herald.com/wishbook