She grew up in Puerto Rico in a large family. Her grandmother taught her the value of hard work and pitching in. With a family that large, everyone had a part to play. Carmen, as child, would wash the clothes by hand. But without running water she had to walk two miles up the hill to her grandmother’s house. She and her sister carried the buckets all the way back, hoping not to spill any along the way.
Since coming to Milwaukee she has continued to struggle and fight to raise her own family and provide a roof over their heads, clothes on their back and food on the table. But there’s not enough money to always cover their expenses. She doesn’t buy new clothes for herself. Her family has never had any luxuries. But she does what she needs to in order to feed her family.
“Food, always.” she says. She does this without an oven, stove or regular size refrigerator. Because of this, her pantry is stocked with canned and microwavable items. “Sometimes I skip meals because I can’t force myself to eat anymore microwaved food.”
When she struggles, she can lean on her friends and supporters at her place of employment, the community food bank. She enjoys being able to help the people she lives with, and it makes her feel like a part of the community.
Family and relationships are as important as anything to her, and give her joy when things get tough.