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Welcoming New Neighbors


Rose Richardson’s journey to the Esperanza Health Center in 2017 was a long and difficult one. She’d come to the U.S. from Jamaica in 2011, and began to notice serious health problems while she was pregnant with her daughter, Taliah, in 2014. For years, she tried to get treatment for worsening symptoms as an undocumented single mother with no health insurance.

Finally, a friend suggested she look into Catholic Charities, and she found the Esperanza Center. Sitting with her during that first visit, Community Health Coordinator Wardi Donnelly looked into Rose’s eyes and said, “You’re pretty sick, you know that?”

The stoic Rose bristled at first. “I thought, ‘I’m not sick bad, because I can still walk,’” she remembered. “But they took me on. All the other people I went to, they sent me around and around. Nobody wanted to help because I didn’t have insurance.”

The Esperanza team sent her for an ultrasound and a biopsy that identified stage 4 uterine cancer which had spread to her lungs. The center partners with providers like Johns Hopkins, which provided Rose with no-cost treatment. Through it all, Rose maintained her fighting spirit: “I keep saying, this cancer is not going to kill me. I’m going to kill it.”

Wardi came to admire that attitude, and the bond between them grew. “You want to do anything you can to help her because she’s helping herself,” she said. “I love Rose. One time I saw she had missed a GYN appointment. I asked her, ‘What happened?’ She didn’t have the money for the bus. We have donated money we can use to help patients like her. If we didn’t, it would come out of my pocket—but I would never tell Rose it came from me. How many times have I gone to Starbucks, and for a fighter like Rose not to have $4 for the bus to make a doctor’s appointment?”

Rose believes Esperanza Center saved her life, giving more her time to watch her little girl grow. “My lungs are getting better every day. I give thanks to God, and Miss Wardi, and all the others that have helped. Miss Wardi is very precious to me and my daughter.”