MALVEC has had the pleasure of having community health workers as part of our team. Workers like Jhoselyn and Madelín have given us an idea of the work they face day after day. As a result of this, we have had the opportunity to expand our network and speak with other community health workers across the country. This next individual not only embodies what a community health worker is, but someone who truly has a heart of gold.
Lilliam Rivera-Mendoza grew up in the projects of Puerto Rico. When Lilliam was just nine years old, her mother passed away after contracting AIDS from her stepfather. Before her mother’s passing, Lilliam spoke about how much she struggled during that time. “I just think my mom went through that situation alone; there was actually no one around him. I was always that child who looks at everything and observes and studies every situation. I wish there were more people to help her, but she was quite lonely during her illness.”
After her mother’s death, Lilliam and her eight other siblings were placed in foster care. The nine then divided into three, so they all parted ways once more. This affected Lilliam as it was not easy to deal with as a child. “It was very hard because I lived one year in one house and one year in another house. Favoritism through their own children was one thing I dealt with. So that’s why I like to be fair, because I know how it feels to be mistreated just because you’re not someone’s child.”
Lilliam eventually ran away from her foster home and went to live on her own at the age of 14. She witnessed a lot of domestic violence in her foster homes and was neglected compared to the other children in the home. Lilliam graduated from school and would move to the United States in 2006. Initially, he wanted to be a police officer and help his community in that way. However, before she could become a police officer, she was expecting her first child. This caused Lilliam to change her plans and she decided to go to college to get her degree.
Lilliam graduated and became a pharmacy technician. During this time at school, he entered the Baltimore Medical System. It was here that Lilliam began to work more with Latinos in the Baltimore area and developed a deeper passion for the work she does today. “To be part of the pharmacy assistance coordinator, in my position they are consistent in helping Latinos get and pay for their medications that are really hard to get because they don’t have health insurance. I don’t want to brag, but he was very good at it. I really fight for my Latinos. If someone rejected that request, I would just resubmit and resubmit until someone listened to me.”
It’s no secret that Lilliam has a deep passion for her fellow Latinos. In fact, he always gets great satisfaction when he knows that his work has helped improve the lives of Latinos. “When I come to the houses and bring food… it is the children. Once I was on his side; I know the fight. When you ask me that question, I can answer that question in many ways, but it’s the children, their faces and their smiles. It’s when they see that their parents have one less thing to worry about. There is a calmness that you feel when you see the smiles on the children’s faces when they are happy. They are happy when they see their parents smiling. It’s the peace of mind that I’m doing the right thing.”
Lilliam is an example we should all follow when it comes to working for the people we care about most. Their passion and generosity never go unnoticed, and it’s people like Lilliam who make MALVEC so proud of the work we all do to better our Latino community. There is no doubt that our people will be in good hands for years to come, and we can attribute that to amazing workers like Baltimore County’s own Lilliam Rivera-Mendoza.