But for the grace of God…
I think of that saying often, and I thought of it while interviewing Manuela Raposo, my guest on Que Onda Con Donna. I always say that there are so many interesting, cool people living quietly among us who do such interesting and cool things. Manuela is one of them.
I showed up to the studio one Monday afternoon to interview her. I walked in, initially holding out my hand for the traditional and professional “handshake,” but when I saw her, and looked into her eyes, I realized we knew each other. Manuela had worked with my wife, Kelly, at Dorcas Place. Oh how life comes full circle.
I can’t even think about Dorcas place without remembering the summer of 1983, yes, 35 years ago! I was a Brown student and an ardent feminist committed to working against violence against women. I was volunteering at what was then the Rape Crisis Center. I would ride my motorcycle down to our headquarters located at 903 Broad Street in South Providence. In the unadorned garage of 903 Broad Street were beautiful souls Sister Mary Reilly, alongside former Sister of Mercy Deborah Thompson. There they were beautiful souls teaching other beautiful souls how to read and write in a garage! Each morning, I would greet these mentors and their students, and while they worked their literary magic, they would keep an eye on my motorcycle while I went upstairs to “work for the cause.”
Those were good old days, days that gave birth to Dorcas Place, an organization whose name is a biblical reference to a woman who served charity and humanity, exactly the work of sister Mary Reilly, Deborah Thompson and Manuela Raposo. Alas I digressed, but I guess that’s what blogs are for….
Anyway, as my eyes met hers, I was flooded with all of those warm Dorcas Place memories. So our re-introduction was filled with as much grace and ease as was our television interview.
Manuela is an extraordinary woman doing extraordinary work. Who knew that she’s actually a medical doctor, licensed in the Dominican Republic!, a fact which sets the stage perfectly for her work with the Welcome Back Center of Rhode Island. Manuela and her then husband decided to return to the Dominican Republic so that he could study medicine. Smart as she is, Manuela decided to do the same. She studied, she graduated, and she practiced family medicine in the Dominican Republic. She was there for 10 years before returning to the United States at age 32.
Understandably, she felt the loss of her professional identity as a doctor because, like so many professional immigrants, her credentials were not accepted here in the United States. Always an optimist, Manuela made the best of it and begin applying for jobs worthy of her brain power, education and experience.
It wasn’t long before she began formally working with the Rhode Island Welcome Back Center, an organization that helps professional immigrants find suitable jobs, worthy of their brain power, experience and education, rather than working in factories. Thank God for Manuela and her work. She is a great mother, daughter and community member. This week’s show is dedicated to learning more about her and her journey…
“¿Que Onda? con Donna” can be seen on YurView – Cox Channels 4 and 1004 – Tuesdays at 7:30pm, Wednesdays at 8:30pm, Saturdays at 2:30pm and 8pm.
The author, Donna M. Nesselbush, is a founding partner at Marasco & Nesselbush Law, a Rhode Island State Senator and Municipal Court Judge for the City of Pawtucket. She hosts a Spanish language Saturday morning radio show on Latina 100.3 fm and now hosts the all new “¿Que Onda? con Donna” TV show.