MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, WKRG is highlighting local people who are actively improving our community while showcasing their culture. News 5 spotlighted Juan Torres and his non-profit, Belong, that supports migrant families in our area.
Torres came to the United States from a small Mexican town when was only 17 years old. He knew no English and was no stranger to poverty.
“I’m one of 13 children in my family so we were poor,” said Torres. “All of the things that come with poverty, I basically experienced.”
Torres began working when he was 5 years old but after 6th grade, he dropped out of school to work and help support his family. What he didn’t know was that his life was about to change.
It did when he met an American priest in Mexico who mentored him and encouraged him to learn English and pursue an education.
After coming to the United States, Torres followed his mentor’s advice becoming the first one in his family to graduate both high school and college. He graduated from the University of South Alabama with a business administration degree in 2002.
Now, Torres is paying it forward through Belong, a non profit he founded. He’s working to give others the very chance he once had.
“I can’t do anything more than give back because when I look back at everything I have received, I mean by far I have gotten so much you know,” said Torres.
Belong helps migrant families in Mobile trying to adjust to their new life. It also also provides them with a sense of family away from home, and educational educational opportunities like GED classes for adults, tutoring for the children, English classes and civil rights awareness.
Torres says he’s a living example of what migrant families can be in this country.
“If it can happen in a place, the U.S. is that place,” said Torres. “There are so many things that will not happen in Latin America because of lack of opportunity and because of so many other needs but here it is possible.”
Now, many migrant families here in Mobile are living testimonies of the work Belong is doing.
“This organization makes it easier for newcomers to integrate and adjust to new life here,” said Chile native, Nayiber Miranda. “This is good because when you leave your country you miss it but organizations like this make you feel very welcome.”
This family’s hope is a better future for themselves and their children.
“My dream in this country is that my children have the education they need in order to succeed,” said Miranda. “I want them to get scholarships so that they can go to college and study a great career.”
Juan Torres’ message is clear, “Everyone deserves to Belong.”