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Developing Leaders Who Impact Costa Mesa: Doña Tere

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Developing Leaders Who Impact Costa Mesa: Doña Tere

Sarah Goodman

“I wanted to go back to Mexico,” Doña Tere said, tears brimming in her eyes. “But, my children were learning English and growing. I knew we had to stay.”

Doña Theresa (right) with her daughter Belen and grandkids, Gabriel and Citlali.

Doña Theresa (right) with her daughter Belen and grandkids, Gabriel and Citlali.

Developing Leaders WHO Impact Costa Mesa: Doña Tere

Doña Theresa, Mika VISIONary leader and mother of two, sets a plate of green mole and a steaming cup of Nescafe in front of me. She lives two doors down from the Centro de Esperanza (Hope Center), a community learning center that was opened in 2006 by Mika, ROCKHARBOR, and the surrounding neighbors. As good as the mole looks, I’m actually here to listen to Doña Theresa tell her story.

“I hope your story will inspire others to grow in their relationship with God, love their neighbors, and join in with what the community is doing,” I say.

She smiles. “Okay. Eat!”

As I start to dig into the mole, she begins to communicate her journey. In 1989, her husband Carlos left Mexico and came to Orange County for work. Nine months later, all he had to show for it was $375. His dream of one day building a house was crushed, but Doña Tere felt she needed to support Carlos and his work in the United States, so she joined him and began to work here as well. They even brought their kids, Belen and Carlos. In 1992, they moved to Costa Mesa. Carlos washed cars. Doña Tere worked at the Four Seasons doing laundry.

Doing laundry? In a foreign country where money was hard to come by? It was a far cry from her early life in Mexico. Born in the beautiful countryside, Doña Tere had many friends, loving parents, and plenty of siblings to play with (i.e., seven sisters and one brother). Her mother was a homemaker and her father owned a business that built and sold city busses. She had even finished two years of nursing school before she married and had her children. Now, she found herself in Costa Mesa, California with new and daunting challenges. Fortunately for us, Doña Tere is not one to back down from a good challenge.

“I wanted to go back to Mexico,” Doña Tere said, tears brimming in her eyes. “But, my children were learning English and growing up here. I knew we had to stay.”

But raising children in Costa Mesa wasn’t going to be easy. She knew she needed to make sure her kids stayed away from drugs and received a good education. It was a challenge, one she hadn’t encountered growing up in Mexico’s countryside, but Doña Tere made the necessary sacrifices. She puts it simply: “Before the center opened, when I was bringing up my kids, times were hard.”

Perhaps that’s why, when the Hope Center on Center Street opened in 2006, Doña Tere supported those who were part of the first leadership group. She had raised her kids without it, and knew how important it was for the community.

“It’s something positive. Something good for the kids. A place that provides opportunities. It’s a huge help for the kids and parents, and it allows for families to grow.”

Doña Tere saw that the Hope Center provided something Costa Mesa needed—that her family needed, so she got involved. Eventually, she attended the Mika Leadership Institute, graduated, and now serves as a Community Coordinator. She also leads a women’s support group, provides for her family, serves her neighbors, leads prayer groups, and can cook one mean mole (as I can personally attest to).

Doña Tere is a VISIONary leader, and she wants to see the Hope Center grow.

“I want to see more kids come to the after school program, for parents to be interested and involved and pay more attention. Learning is important, and if we provide more opportunities, the children will have more success in life.”

“How can Mika supporters pray for you and your community?” I asked

“Pray for wisdom and intelligence, and that our leaders would continue to care for each woman well. Also, that we would stay organized, considering what each person wants to do and making connections to ensure that happens.”    

Mika strives to support community leaders like Doña Tere. That’s why we exist, to identify and equip leaders to transform their communities. Doña Tere is the perfect example of how community leaders can make an impact.

Leave A Comment for Doña Theresa

Will you take a moment to encourage Doña Tere? Please leave her a prayer or an encouraging word in the comments below and show her how much we appreciate her continued work in our community.

 Opportunities for You

Are you interested in partnering with Mika? Volunteer your time or support us with a generous gift! We would love for you to join us in the development of VISIONary leaders who are impacting Costa Mesa for good—just like Doña Theresa.