Cristina Ramirez remembers being eight years old and sitting in her parents air-conditioned car in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Outside her window, Ramirez saw children her same age begging on the street.
“I knew something was wrong with this picture,” said Ramirez, 41, who was born in Brazil but whose parents were Cuban expats in South America.
“I knew children didn’t choose to be born into a poor or rich family, it just happened, so I felt like I had a responsibility to give back.”
This responsibility has been a definitive quality throughout Ramirez’s life and work.
She’s been a preschool teacher, worked at a homeless shelter, dabbled in Latin American corporate finance in Wall Street and moved to Chile where she founded CDI Chile, a non-profit organization whose mission is to provide computers to communities that are digitally excluded within the country.
When CDI Chile had a life of its own Ramirez decided to move to the United States where she married and became a mom to two boys.
“At the time I was working at Camillus House, a homeless shelter in Miami, but I thought I should dedicate more time to my family so I left that job,” said Ramirez.
However, her desire to continue helping people in her community did not vanish.
“I gained some weight and felt that I had to get healthy for them because I wanted to be the mom that took them [her sons] to the park and hiking and on bike trips so I got off the couch and started exercising,” she said.
Ramirez then started her fitness blog triathlonmami.com to share her journey to a healthier life with family, friends and followers.
Helping a quadriplegic woman become a triathlete
Through her husband, Ramirez met former New York Times reporter Kerry Gruson.
“I met Kerry about five years ago,” said Ramirez.
“Kerry was interviewing an American soldier who was a Vietnam veteran when he suddenly had a flashback of war and strangled her, because of the lack of oxygen to her brain in those moments she is now a quadriplegic.”
Gruson, however, does not consider herself a victim, in fact after the accident Gruson continued being a reporter for a couple of years.
“Kerry is proof that as people we don’t have to be defined by our problems,” said Ramirez. “She’s a testament that anything is possible.”
Ramirez will be competing in the South Beach Triathlon on Saturday, April 5th but she won’t be doing it alone, Gruson will be by her side.
“I will be pulling my friend along with me throughout the different events, during the swim I will be pulling her on a kayak and have the kayak attached to my waist,” she said.
During the biking portion of the triathlon Gruson will be on a carrier behind Ramirez and on the running portion she’ll be on a jogging stroller.
“We train together and though it’s physically harder for me, it takes complete trust from Kerry,” said Ramirez. “We are spreading this message of optimism and doing it together.”
Ramirez wins a Hispanicize Positive Impact Award
The Hispanicize organization has selected Cristina Ramirez as a winner of a 2014 Hispanicize Positive Impact Award for her community contributions.
Cristina Ramirez and each of our Hispanicize Positive Impact winners are individuals that genuinely stand out in our communities, going out of their way to make a difference,” said Manny Ruiz, CEO and organize of Hispanicize.
“These are the every day heroes that each of us should aspire to be. We are happy to honor them and set them as examples of 20 Latinos that are shaping our nation for the better.”