Manuel grew up and began his career in Nicaragua, a region of the world that has experienced decades of political and economic conflict. He later moved throughout Latin America and Europe and eventually to the United States after he was invited to lecture at the University of Wisconsin.

During his time in the Midwest, Manuel also worked in rural schools, which led him to realize his passion for teaching. When he relocated to California about ten years ago, he started a business offering companies and organizations Spanish and Portuguese language training and became a bilingual exam proctor at vocational schools throughout Southern California. Manuel was passionate about his work and knew he could use it to support individuals who are often left behind.

When Manuel learned about Chrysalis, he felt he had found an organization that reflected a quote from Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano: “I don’t believe in charity; I believe in solidarity. Charity is so vertical. It goes from the top to the bottom. Solidarity is horizontal. It respects the other person. I have a lot to learn from other people.” Galeano’s words stick with Manual, speaking to his value of community.

During his time living in Central America in addition to his experience immigrating to the United States for work, Manuel became familiar with the different kinds of challenges and barriers many people face to starting over. Ultimately, this inspired him to become a Chrysalis volunteer in the summer of 2016.

“No matter where you come from or how you got here, it isn’t an easy path. I understand what a difference it makes when someone gives you a chance and shows you the way,” he explains. “I value the way Chrysalis strives to help people who have been excluded, forgotten, or left behind. Everyone deserves to be heard.”

With his background in adult education and personal experience with a Spanish-English language barrier, he decided that facilitating job-readiness classes for Spanish-speaking clients was a perfect fit for him. Manuel now leads Job Prep 3 every other week at Chrysalis’ San Fernando Valley center, a class which focuses on preparing for a job interview.

When facilitating the class, Manuel encourages participation – making the class dynamic and interactive. At the core of the lessons is self-confidence and encouragement, which Manuel intertwines with every aspect of the class. He often finds that helping clients gain a solid understanding of how to prepare for and succeed in a job interview provides them with more confidence and optimism in regards to their own abilities and their job search. In turn, he emphasizes how self-confidence and a positive attitude can improve the personal image clients are presenting to potential employers. There is no doubt that his personality has had an impact on clients when one sees how much clients enjoy sharing their insights and experiences with Manuel.

“It’s really rewarding to see people leave at the end having learned something new and practiced their skills, all while having fun and feeling energized.”

Manuel enjoys being part of Chrysalis’ efforts to ensure services are culturally responsive as well as accessible to Spanish-speaking clients. For him, volunteering at Chrysalis has given him the opportunity to continue learning while empowering individuals who are experiencing barriers to employment.

“I’m glad I get to use my own lived experience to help others develop the necessary self-confidence and tools to obtain the opportunities they deserve.”