Labor Day—a day marking the end of summer, the beginning of school, and the last acceptable day to wear white. Over the years Labor Day has come to celebrate many things, but ultimately it’s a day we pay homage to the workers of the United States.
In honor of Labor Day we would like to share the story of Alexei Carbonell, an Accion client providing his community not only with a well-needed service, but also with jobs.
Alexei Carbonell remembers his hometown of Santo Espiritu del Mar in Villa Clara, Cuba as bright and beautiful. At the age of fourteen, Alexei lost his mother and was left to take care of his sister, while his father worked overtime at a milk bottling plant.
Alexei was the first in his family to obtain a college education. While earning a degree in physical education, Alexei met his wife Marta. Soon after, they welcomed a beautiful daughter, Dayaris, into the world. With Dayaris’s arrival and the political instability of the country, Alexei decided it was time to leave Cuba and seek asylum in the United States.
Because Alexei was unable to speak English, his move proved more difficult than anticipated. He worked at a liquor store to pay the bills and remained hopeful, brainstorming ways to combine his degree in physical therapy with his Spanish-speaking skills. He worked long night shifts and overtime to save money. He observed the community around him closely and realized there was a need for a special-needs childcare center. Having grown up with a sibling who had limited vision and speech, Alexei knew firsthand the challenges that face a family with a child who has disabilities.
Alexei worked very hard and saved up every penny he could. Two years later, he was able to open the D & D Rehabilitation Center. The center works with Spanish-speaking, special needs children in occupational, speech, and physical therapy.
The first few months of operating the business were difficult for Alexei and his employees. It wasn’t for lack of demand, though— in fact, it was the complete opposite. Alexei anticipated 50 children, but almost 90 children in South Florida had signed up for their services.
Alexei had not planned on such high demand, which caused problems with Medicare and Medicaid and forced Alexei to move to a bigger location. He quickly realized that he urgently needed more money to provide for the 90 children that were seeking his assistance. Fortunately, he found Accion. We worked with Alexei one-on-one to make sure his loan would allow him to expand his services and meet the need.
Alexei’s loan has already allowed him to grow his staff from five employees to twenty-two.
Thanks to the loan, he’ll also be able to keep providing free pick-up service. Because his business is located in a low-income neighborhood, parents often have trouble driving their children to and from the center. Alexei did not want children to be forced to drop out of the program, and so started picking up children so they could continue their needed therapy.