• NEDDIE Team

Hispanic Heritage Month: Hispanic Leaders in Philanthropy

Updated: Oct 6

Hispanics bring their culture and soul to everything they create. Even in Philanthropy, the Hispanic passion is felt within the causes they support. On the National Hispanic Heritage Month we celebrate the achievements and contributions Hispanics are making in America for a better and more inclusive future.

These are the stories of 4 leaders among the growing leaders in the Hispanic community that are making strides in philanthropy. The passion for their causes, their dedicated efforts, and their outstanding leadership is fueled by the love they have for their communities.


Mirya Muñoz is the Executive Director at St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle, a renowned organization that has been providing assistance to thousands of families and individuals in the Seattle area for over 100 years. Their mission has been to assist families to meet basic needs and achieve stability and self-sufficiency to help them with the preservation and affirmation of their human dignity.


What brought you to the position you find yourself in today? What sparked your passion for this cause? 

I sought the leadership at SVdP (St. Vincent de Paul) and the role of Executive Director because I saw the challenge of leading this organization into the future. I carry within me a clear vision and a deep conviction that as a Latina woman, born and raised in Puerto Rico, bilingual and a US citizenship by birth; I am compelled to use my voice to amplify the cry of the poor, the undocumented, the marginalized and the powerless.


From my earliest childhood memories, I recall my father, a US Army Korean war veteran, and proud borinqueneer* sharing how he and his friends in 1951, stood up for another Puerto Rican US Army soldier from his unit, who was being forced out of a restaurant because of his skin color. The idea of standing for and with others, and the unwavering sense of duty in the face of injustice, was imprinted in me at a young age through these stories.


Love for music, traditional foods from the island, the faith of my parents, and my own cultural heritage, formed me. My upbringing included at the core, the resounding strong voice of my mother, whose words still echo in my mind every time I encounter adversity and challenges. “Mirya”, she would say: “don’t ask yourself why this is happening? But rather, ask yourself, for what greater purpose!”


To stay hopeful in adversity, leaning on the values that formed me, I would grab hold of whatever life’s circumstances brought me and I would forge a new way forward. All of these aspects of my character are central to who I am as a leader. This alone, coupled with my own experiences as a mother raising three strong bi-cultural young women, with all the challenges that come with it, have also sparked my passion for the causes I support. Central to the work I do at SVdP, is our work with Latino families and the mission of educating parents, empowering our communities of color, fighting for equity in education, and standing with our neighbors who feel disenfranchised, marginalized and unloved. All these are core values we profess at SVdP which we foster across all of our programs, including our all-Latino led program of Centro Rendu.


 What has been the most rewarding result of starting your organization? 


Most rewarding experience as we developed the Centro Rendu Latino program has been its fast growth, our ability at SVdP to create and design community informed programs that respond to diverse family needs, and the collective work with other organizations to building equity in education.


Centro Rendu of St. Vincent de Paul is a program that is managed by an all-Latino staff and it serves as a bridge to many services across King County, most recently adding Pierce County to our service areas. Centro Rendu has earned the respect of many agencies and local organizations and at the national level, it has been identified as a "Best-Practice-Program," by the SVdP National Council in the US.  Centro Rendu has graduated many students and served over 8K families since its beginnings in the fall of 2013.


 What would you say to inspire the young Hispanics that are considering leadership roles? 


Go for it! If not you, who? If not now, when? As someone once said: We are the ones we have been waiting for! Or as Gloria Stefan put it to song: “Get on your feet and make it happen!”


Be proud of your roots, they are roots of hard work, of family, community, faith and resilience. Learn to work with others, be yourself, do not apologize for your accent, smart people recognize the value of your accent and want to learn about your culture. They know you add value to the beautiful fabric that makes our nation great!


To support Mirya's nonprofit click here.


Dr. Miguel Vázquez is one of the Founders and President of True Self Foundation, a foundation that recognizes the urgent need to achieve changes in the policy, vision and treatment of the transgender community. They work to guarantee equity, security, and the physical and emotional well-being of people from communities of diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity in Puerto Rico. They provide scholarships through the "Transuni Fund" program to Puerto Ricans who are trans, queer and non-binary to achieve their educational, personal and professional development goals. Also, through the "Be Free Fund" they are helping the transgender community by providing financial aid for gender affirming procedures.


What brought you to the position you find yourself in today? What sparked your passion for this cause?

I am a 40 year old openly gay Puerto Rican psychologist that since my coming out moment when I started studying psychology (19 years old) I decided to work with my own community. Understanding first-hand the struggles with LGBTphobias and oppression, I started working with people that underwent the same efforts to be included and be accepted in society.


These motivations made me organize my efforts in True Self Foundation. True Self is an organization I founded with Omayra Toledo, Esq. which serves LGBT+ communities in Puerto Rico. We fight for social justice.


What has been the most rewarding result of starting your organization?


Every project and every effort result in outstanding rewards for our 100% voluntary team. Nevertheless, seeing the overwhelming support of the community and benefactors is humbling and very rewarding. I always think that 20 years ago, a foundation like ours wouldn’t have any followers nor supporters, but now the world is changing, and its change is towards the acceptance of diversity. We feel extremely proud of what we have achieved.


What have you learned throughout your journey with this organization?


It is very difficult to start a foundation out of nowhere. It takes conviction, motivation and passion to develop a nonprofit that promotes the wellbeing of the LGBT+ community. We have learned many things through our 4 year journey. In this list, we summarize some of the top ideas learned:

  • Partnerships with key leaders and organizations are important.

  • Allies are people that should have a voice and participation in your organization.

  • The voice of the community needs to lead the way.

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  • Trust in yourself and receive feedback from the community constantly.

What would you say to inspire the young Hispanics that are considering leadership roles?


Our community deserves to be heard and being in leadership roles gives us the platform so that our voices are indeed heard. We must bet on ourselves against oppressive majorities, language barriers, and other pains we face. Our visibility and inclusion means change and a brighter perspective for our young Hispanic and latinx communities.


To support Miguel's nonprofit click here.


Amarilis González is the Executive Director of Techos Pa' Mi Gente, they focus on providing home reconstruction and secure housing to low income homeowners, especially those impacted by hurricanes, that lack funds to rebuild their homes and recover properly. Since 2017 they have rebuilt 62 roofs and currently have 900 families requesting their support.

What brought you to the position you find yourself in today? What sparked your passion for this cause? 


Three weeks after hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico I was on my way to the school I used to work at when I saw an elderly couple pulling out their mattresses from what remained of their home. I felt frustrated because help was not arriving to those in need. I expressed my frustration on social media, I posted: “If I had tarps I would install them on people's roofs myself” (During this time FEMA was providing tarps to cover houses that lost their roofs during the hurricane, but those tarps had not arrived). My friends in the diaspora and other countries reacted to my social media post and asked for an address to send tarps. Within weeks my garage was full of donated tarps. I decided to organize a group with my neighbors and made an invitation via Facebook asking for volunteers. A total of 27 people responded to our call to action.

Along with one of my neighbors, Dr. Rubén Estremera, we went out to look for houses without roofs. We named our group “Toldos Pa’ Mi Gente” (Tarps for Our People). We received training on tarp installation. Because the damage to the roofs was extensive we had to carpentry just to put on a tarp. My husband, Eng. Marcos O. Arocho provided the guidelines for hurricane resistant homes developed by FEMA and the Chapter of Engineers of Puerto Rico. We decided to evolve and began fixing roofs.


Since then, we have been training volunteers on carpentry and masonry among other construction related training. In May 2018, after a deep analysis, I decided to resign to my job of 17 years as a teacher and continue my work as a volunteer leading the project now called Techos Pa’ Mi Gente (Roofs For My People).


What has been the most rewarding result of starting your organization? 


The most rewarding result was bringing back hope to the people and strengthening mine. I have met wonderful human beings throughout this journey. Volunteers so committed to the cause that they gave me strength when I needed it.

The best reward is knowing that when we fix a roof, not only we fix a structure, but we are also fixing people’s health, minds and souls, and they can finally smile again.


What have you learned throughout your journey with this organization? 


I learned that we can do things on our own. We do not need to wait for someone to make things happen for us. We are resilient and strong.


What would you say to inspire the young Hispanics that are considering leadership roles? 


There is always a bright side within difficult moments. We need to keep our eyes wide open in order to identify those areas where we can turn chaos into blessings. We all have a mission to accomplish in this world. It is our responsibility to walk towards that goal. That mission will not be easy, but it will be achievable, and when you look back and see the road taken and all the smiles you created, you will know you made the right choice.


To support Amarili's nonprofit click here.


Dr. Karen Caraballo is the Chief Executive Officer of Puerto Rico Rise Up , an organization that has been at the forefront of disaster relief for Puerto Rican communities. Through their "Coqui Education" Program they are helping restore and enhance the quality of childhood education of schools in underserved communities in Puerto Rico. Currently through their "Alimentos Para Mi Gente" (Food For My People) Program they are distributing food boxes from local farmers to Puerto Rican families.

What brought you to the position you find yourself in today? What sparked your passion for this cause?


I am a Boricua in the diaspora. I am a Boricua in New York City. For the past 20 years, I have made the conscious effort to remain connected to my Island.

Life changed for all Puerto Ricans on September 20, 2017. Although it was a time of great devastation, uncertainty and pain, it was also a moment of unity. For the first time, the diaspora and Puerto Ricans on the island united for the same purpose.


Puerto Rico Rise Up was born as a response to Hurricane Maria. Women from all walks of life, from the diaspora and Puerto Rico, came together to provide aid to communities on our island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria. We have continued working together to empower and uplift the people of Puerto Rico to achieve equitable opportunities and secure a sustainable future.

In my desire to participate during the relief efforts, I reached out to Puerto Rico Rise Up and I became a volunteer. I was excited about the opportunity to serve the communities on my island and committed to collaborating with other leaders.

It wasn't my plan to become the executive director for the organization. When the opportunity came up, I responded to the call because I felt it was meant to be. I realized it was an honor and a great opportunity to remain connected and give back to the communities on the island alongside an amazing team on the island and abroad.


My role as executive director encompasses the intersection of my passions: working for underserved communities, collaborating and providing mentoring to younger generations, and identifying ​​new ways to advance social justice in communities.


What has been the most rewarding result of starting your organization?


Puerto Rico Rise Up was founded by our first CEO, Dr. Sara Diaz Valentin. Dra. Diaz Valentin had the vision and took the chance to start Puerto Rico Rise Up to bring aid and hope to communities in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.


I have been the CEO for the past 2.5 years. The organization has given me so much; I have received opportunities I didn't even know I needed or wanted. The most rewarding experience has been the life lessons that I have learned from the communities of Puerto Rico. The most important lesson is that, even at your most vulnerable moment and in the midst of darkness we can still find hope and a bright side. Puerto Rico has gone through a lot, but while navigating multiple challenges, our communities have found ways to reinvent themselves and be stronger, more organized, and empowered.

What would you say to inspire the young Hispanics that are considering leadership roles?


  • Be your authentic self.

  • Value your background, be proud of who you are. The ability to navigate between cultures is a gift.

  • Having a good mentor is a critical part of successfully navigating your career and finding balance.

  • Establish meaningful connections and give back.

  • Remember that not everything you do will be successful. Don't give up. Mistakes are opportunities to learn. Look on the bright side.

  • Take risks.

  • Speak up.

  • Take up your space and do not apologize for it.

  • Fight the impostor syndrome. You belong.

  • Build a strong team around you.

  • Be grateful. Show gratitude.

  • Be unstoppable in your pursuit of a career and of opportunities that are going to make you happy. Make goals. Work hard. Be focused. There are millions of Latinx who need you to help them build bridges and create pathways.

To support Karen's nonprofit click here.


Get to know more nonprofits lead by outstanding Hispanic leaders. Visit www.neddie.co to learn more and support incredible nonprofits that are impacting our communities.







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