Name: Rafael Molina (aka Rafa)
Home town: Shirley
Children: Pablo 19, Dulce 17, Dario 16
Occupation: Facilitated Enroller (health insurance)
I was born in El Salvador to a very humble catholic family, I’m the middle child of three, I have two sisters (not runners) I grew up in a small village where everyone knows everybody, attended school from first grade to part of high school, I didn’t have the chance to graduate, I started to work when I was 16 in a telecommunications company, but in order to work there I had to be at least 18, so my friend helped me to get the job. (I won’t get into details how he did it)
As a catholic family, we always respect Sunday as the family day, early morning my dad will go to the butcher and get the best fresh meat, and my mother will cook, and we all sit at the table, after that we will go to Sunday mass.
As I grew up things started to change, I will skip church and will go to play soccer instead, and make it back to church before mass was ended, but of course, my mother noticed it and I got in trouble with her, but I didn’t stop, when I was few years older, I will not only skip church, but also will be gone for the entire day, because I was traveling with the town soccer team to other town or cities.
I was always a very active child, I started playing soccer when I was 9, and when I was a teen I made the school varsity soccer team.(that was something big for me) by the time I was 16 or 17, I was playing with people so much older then me.
But as I said at the beginning, I was earning money at a young age, and traveling with the soccer team to many places, i also started drinking (big mistake) i got into many soccer game fights, street fights, and trouble with the law twice (oh man!) I lost my job, because the big corporations were privatizing many jobs, and because I was part of the “Union” they let me go, the only financial resource I had was a little money that this soccer team I played for was paying me for playing for them, but that wasn’t enough, and there I was, young and dump, with no job, no school and by now my parents were separated, I was out of control. (Sad) but thank God I’ve made it this far.
The Turning Point.
My mother and my sister (my sister was already living in NYS) told me that I have to do something about my life, my mom said; you’re not working and you didn’t continue school so your sister and I decided “You should travel to US” I arrived at JFK airport on October of 95, four days later I was working for a construction company (I’m a carpenter) framing and finish carpentry, but there was a big problem; I didn’t speak any English, and I was the only Hispanic guy there. After about four month I told my sister that I was having very difficult time at work, and I asked her if she can find out if I can learn English somewhere, she right way said Yes! We went to Shirley Library and requested a tutor, I had to wait three month for them to call me, “we found a tutor” I was happy, four hours per week for the next six month helps me tremendously, after that I find out there were night classes at Patchogue middle school and there I was for another six month.
Television, magazines, news paper, street signs, stickers, I will try to read anything, while I was driving I will start a solo conversation and try to make sentences. It was very challenging but when you want something, you go after that. Music helps so much too, when I was in El Salvador I remember singing English songs (That’s what I thought) haha!
I started to translate English songs to Spanish, I was like Wow! “I love this song! nice lyrics especially the lo e sings of the 80’s ✌
I also attended SCCC in Riverhead, I did ESL and GED, and other courses, and that is how I ended up working as a Community Outreach at a health center, I work there for almost seven years, and recently I was hired to work with Healthfirst as a Marketplace Facilitated Enroller.
Life’s not easy, we all face challenges, but with those challenges also comes opportunities, we just have to be aware and ready!