Found in Translation

Guadalupe in the Covenant classroom.

Guadalupe in the Covenant classroom.

Immigrating to the United States without knowing English is a difficult process many people endure. Originally from Mexico, Guadalupe came to the United States in hopes for a better life and the opportunity to succeed. Although her journey was not easy, Manos de Cristo helped provide her with the resources to acclimate to a new life and to achieve her dreams.

Guadalupe was one of the first students to attended English as a Second Language (ESL) class at Manos’ new, off-site satellite location at Covenant Presbyterian Church.  She enrolled in Level 4 ESL class, the highest-level course offered, because she wanted to improve her grammar and practice conversational English in a fun, interactive setting.

Guadalupe had attended several other programs that provided similar courses, but she never felt at home or a part of a community until she came to Manos de Cristo.

“I think the best thing about this program is that we are in small groups and we have two teachers,” said Guadalupe. “The teachers I use to have at other programs didn’t seem to care…teachers at Manos care, they really care!”

Elizabeth Marks has been one of Manos’ Level 4 ESL teachers since October after hearing about the teaching opportunity through AmeriCorps. She loves being able to witness the successes of her students.

“I love teaching classes, I love the students and I love the staff,” said Marks. “[Teaching is] very satisfying and you just know you’re doing something that’s benefiting someone else.”

Carol Sheppard (Left) and Linda Rutherford (Right) level 4 ESL teachers at Covenant.

Marks said one of the biggest struggles most of her students face is with the past tense and how to apply it, however, they work through it.

“Learning English isn’t the easiest thing,” said Marks. “But [the students] apply themselves and work hard.”

Guadalupe has worked tirelessly in her ESL class and plans to use the skills she has learned to help find a better job. She wants to work in a hospital as a nurse and provide translation assistance for both clients and staff some day in the near future. And now with the skills she has learned from Manos, she is one step closer to her dream.

Guadalupe completed her Level 4 studies in May and plans to continue improving her new found skills with a more advanced class this fall. She wants to remain connected with the organization that has provided her with not only valuable, lifelong skills, but a community.

By John Paul Napleton, Erin Dunkin, and Nikki Dulay

Contributing Writers from Texas Tower PR

No Muss, No Fuss, No Bother


Marcia found Manos de Cristo when she decided to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). Most of her life has been directed at creating access and opportunity for economically and socially disadvantaged individuals, and Manos de Cristo was just the right fit.

She began supporting Manos de Cristo financially after she was moved by the students that she was tutoring. “The only thought that I could hold in my mind was that I ‘would pay to have this much fun,’ she said.

“As soon as I processed that thought, it was very clear that I could translate that feeling into financial support for the organization.”

As a certified Early Education teacher, Marcia even teaches the young children of the adult education students. She’s a huge believer in the need to get all kids ready for school, so she takes pride in the short time that she gets to teach them something new; like how to use scissors and different iterations of the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

To Marcia, monthly giving is “no muss, no fuss, no bother,” and after being involved with other nonprofits, she fully understands how important it is to have steady and predictable income. “If [my monthly gift] can be a small part of creating the stability, I am honored to do so,” she said.

Marcia became a monthly Grin & Share It member a year ago, and continues to support our programs by giving her time and money. It’s a privilege to have Marcia as a Founding-100 Member of the Grin & Share It monthly giving program.

Check out her donor testimonial courtesy of I Live Here, I Give Here’s video series above.

Meet Steven & Eugene


Steven and Eugene will never forget the story about Rev. Frank Diaz, one of our founders, and the man with the pliers.

In the late 80s, the poor and homeless were constantly knocking on the doors of Rev. Diaz’s church. Many were young men asking for baby food. Rev. Diaz assumed they had children to feed, but he soon found he was wrong. The baby food was for them because they had no teeth.

The local hospital could not provide the dental care they needed, so they resulted to pulling their own teeth. Many even visited a local man working out of his garage – he used pliers to pull their teeth for them. So began the vision to create a safe, low-cost dental facility for the working poor who had nowhere else to go. In 2014, we expect the new Dental Center to serve affordable oral care to approximately 11,000 patients.

“The mission of Manos is to give people an opportunity to be healthy, whole and ready to do work,” said Steven.

Steven and Eugene are proud supporters of Manos, and with their sustaining support we continue to make an immediate impact in Central Texas.

Restoring a Smile of Confidence


dr stephanie rodriguez-kevin clem-ziba samaniKevin struggled with broken teeth and gaps all his life, hurting his self-confidence along the way. At age 45, when he lost and swallowed a previously repaired tooth, Kevin was referred to Manos de Cristo by a friend. He didn’t have a dentist, was in between jobs, and had no dental insurance.

Kevin’s dental issues began early in his life. When he was 14-years-old, his front left incisor was sheared off with the root exposed while he and his buddy were roughhousing. Kevin’s tooth was rebuilt but because of the trauma, the root eventually abscessed, and he developed a major infection. “I had to have a root canal on the tooth, with the dead root ultimately removed,” Kevin said.

That chipped tooth would bother him for the next thirty years. While he still managed to save the tooth, it eroded over time. “I could tell the tooth was getting shorter and shorter, it wasn’t dramatic, but it was enough, it felt funny, and it was becoming somewhat noticeable,” he said. Kevin’s other teeth started to grow away from the injured tooth, causing gaps in his front teeth. “I not only had that odd, eroded tooth, but now I had the gaps on either side to make it all the more prominent, which was just wonderful,” he joked.

When he lost the repaired front tooth, which somehow became a hors d’oeuvre at a holiday party, his smile disappeared too and he suffered from a lack of self-confidence. A friend of his spoke very highly of Manos de Cristo’s Dental Center. Kevin went to see what, if anything could be done for his dental needs. He initially came in to have only some essential work done, but received much more than he could have imagined.

Kevin said he had been reluctant to get the gaps filled in the last 30 plus years because he didn’t know what to expect, and he was sure he could not afford the care. “I was expecting that a dentist would be grinding down the other teeth in order to build them back out again, and that would be too expensive. I didn’t realize that you could actually bond to the enamel as it was standing,” he said.

According to Dr. Stephanie Rodriguez, Kevin’s dentist at the Manos de Cristo Dental Center, the ideal treatment plan would have been expensive orthodontic work. Money was still a determining factor in his treatment plan, so Dr. Rodriguez took that into consideration. First she evaluated his smile, and then took before and after molds of his teeth. Once Kevin saw the cast of what his teeth could potentially look like, and he realized that Manos was an affordable dental center, he was eager to have the work done. Dr. Rodriguez closed the spaces and fixed the broken tooth by adding composite veneers – essentially a tooth-colored filling.

It has been four years and the composites are still holding up wonderfully. “Because of the gaps in my teeth, I’d always been self-conscious about my smile, but after Dr. Rodriquez’s work, you know, I have no problems at all at this point. And that’s why I’m here, I’m so grateful for the affordable treatment,” Kevin said.

The quality of work here is just top rate. Plus, the dental staff is friendly, very caring and professional. I was provided with the treatment that I needed and I felt like I wasn’t sold more than that, Kevin said.

All of these years, he thought dental work was more cost than it was worth, but with Manos’ affordable dental services, he has rebuilt his confidence, dignity and improved his overall health.

Click here more information about the Manos de Cristo Dental Center.

Citizenship Matters


Sabry and wife SalmaTheir joyous and positive demeanor belies the hardships they have gone through to get to where they are now.

Sabry and wife Salma, both 65, were displaced by the civil war in Iraq, and came to the United States as refugees. After years of wanting to become citizens, they decided they would do something about it.

In their search for citizenship classes, their friend referred them to Manos de Cristo. Manos offers a year-long program for eligible Legal Permanent Residents, as opposed to the month-long preparation courses that are typically offered around the Austin area. This provides students with more time to prep for all parts of the interview process, and help establish their self-confidence along the way.

Unfortunately, the U.S. citizenship test isn’t as easy as you would imagine. There are four parts to the test: civics, reading, writing and speaking in English. Students learn about US history, government, culture and holidays, along with reading, writing, speaking and understanding English in preparation for the interview that they must pass to become US citizens. Manos also offers a hour-long English as a Second Language (ESL) class before citizenship class – a critical component to passing the test.

Kathy Schneider has been Manos’ citizenship teacher for nearly five years, and she can see the results in her students’ feedback. “They almost always say it was very easy, but of course that was because they went to school and they knew exactly what to expect, and they were well prepared.” Schneider says that the biggest stumbling block for her students is speaking and understanding English, since most students are quick to grasp the concepts.

Manos has helped both Sabry and Salma fill out their application; they both completed their fingerprints, and received a written notice for their interview. At the end of June, both Sabry and Salma passed their citizenship test! After taking the naturalization oath and becoming U.S. citizens, they can now call themselves “Americans.”

“The goal is to help humans without regard to race, without color, without anything,” said Sabry. “The Manos administration helps everybody.”

They are so grateful, and have sought out Manos’ other services like ESL and Computer Literacy so Sabry can find a new job.

Thanks to the help of Manos and its supporters, this couple now calls the U.S.A. their country, their home.

Click here for more information about Citizenship classes at Manos de Cristo.

Time to Get GROWING!


by UrbanRoots

Urban Roots carrot bunchSpring is around the corner and it’s time to plan your spring vegetable garden. Here are some FAQ’s we receive on the Urban Roots farm about growing a garden:

What can I grow in the spring?  Springtime in Austin is great for growing lettuce, spinach, carrots, beets, kale, collards, broccoli, cabbage, kohlrabi, radishes, turnips, and more! You can also grow fresh herbs like dill, fennel, cilantro, chamomile, and parsley.

How far apart should I space plants?  Larger plants like broccoli or cabbage require 12-18,” smaller plants like spinach or radishes can be 2″ – 4” apart. Check your seed packet for the best spacing. Plant a little more than you think you will need to make sure you have enough plants.

How often should I water?  It depends on your soil type and the recent weather. Dig your hand down two or three inches beneath the soil surface and press the soil between your fingers. Does it feel moist or can you form a ball with it? If so, your soil has plenty of water for your plants. Does it feel dry and fall apart between your fingers? This means you need to water.

For more information, visit: Be sure to check out their fabulous volunteer opportunities.

Happy gardening!

Celebrating Success


By Erin Duncan, Texas Tower PR Volunteer

Adult students in the Manos de Cristo beginner and intermediate computer class graduated last week after their eight week session of classes. Graduations were highlighted with the awarding of certificates then a drawing for a laptop computer and flash drives.

computer studentGraciella, a beginning computer student won the laptop giving her the ability to continue practicing her new skills at home. After the raffle, the teachers and students celebrated the semester with refreshments and one another’s company.

Another computer student, Cornelius has been with Manos since 2013. He decided to retake the beginning class with the goal of becoming an expert before moving to the intermediate level. After having a stroke in 2005, he was confined to a wheelchair and needed assistance with everyday routine tasks.

I’ve come a long way and I am getting stronger each day,

Now Cornelius is typing words quickly on a computer and has earned six certificates from Manos for attending classes.

Manos offers 8-week computer courses for individuals with little to no prior computer experience. Classes are bilingual (English/Spanish) when bilingual instructors are available. Course topics include computer basics, word processing, Internet navigation, e-mail, and the use of spreadsheets

For more information about computer classes at Manos de Cristo, visit:

Rockin’ the House at the Manos de Cristo Charity Gala


By   Jenny Passmore, Texas Tower PR Volunteer

Beau and Leslie Thorne

Gala attendees Beau and Leslie Thorne enjoy dinner and a short program before the auction at ACL Live Moody Theatre. (Photo by Oliver Smith.)

Thank you to sponsors, attendees and volunteers who made our annual Manos de Cristo Charity Gala the most successful one yet. The event raised over $111,000 for Manos de Cristo at the ACL Live at The Moody Theater in the heart of downtown Austin on February 13.

Gala attendees streamed in to enjoy pre-gala fun like taking fun pictures at the venue photo booth, scoping out auction baskets and buying Kendra Scott Jewelry mystery boxes. At dinner, guests enjoyed a three-course offering from the W Austin Hotel and mingled and shared their visions for Manos de Cristo.

After dinner, Master of Ceremonies Ron Oliveira welcomed gala co-chairs and board members Beverly Chasse and Dr. Tony Pacheco, Jr. Through their personal stories they reminded guests that the mission of Manos de Cristo is to help struggling community members get back on their feet by meeting basic needs with food and clothing, providing essential oral care, and furthering educational development.

Gayle Stallings FUNauctions

Auctioneer, Gayle Stallings of FUNauctions, auctions off three of her spotter lights for a total of $1,500. (Photo by Travis Perkins.)

The audience responded to their message by giving $62,000 in a ten minute Fund a Need portion of the evening, asking for support toward specific services and programs at Manos, including affordable dental services, back-to-school supplies for school children and providing education for adult learners.

The live auction brought the crowd together raising their paddles for the benefit of others. Among the exciting live auction packages were a South African safari, a trip to Bali, a four-course dinner at Eddie V’s and seven night stay in New Mexico. At the end of the night, passionate donors still wanted to contribute, so they started bidding on bid spotter lights, adding an additional $1,500. A huge thank you is in order to auctioneer, Gayle Stallings of FUNauctions for engaging the audience and helping to raise record funds for Manos de Cristo at this year’s gala..

The Pictures_too

The Pictures Band provided dance music and fun at the gala. (Photo by Travis Perkins.)

After the live auction, the guests enjoyed the casino and open bar. Donors danced the night away to the lively music provided by The Pictures Band.

The gala raised more money for Manos de Cristo than ever before and we owe it all to our gala attendees, sponsors, donors, board members and supporters. Thank you for your big hearts and passion. We look forward to serving the community by meeting basic needs with food and clothing, providing essential oral care and furthering educational development for adult learners.