Inspiring Latina of the Week: Philanthropist Marjoriet Matute

Marjoriet Matute is the founder of Devin and Tristan Give Back, a charity that raises awareness for different issues, collects toys and helps with anything else that is needed in communities. The non-profit organization has various collections throughout the year to help support the organizations that need their help. They work hard to support those in need any way they can.

Marjoriet is also a cancer survivor who through her own experience promised to give back, and she works hard to keep that promise. She was diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma in 1999 at the age of 17. After undergoing an extensive amount of chemotherapy and radiation Marjoriet was told she would never have children. Now, over a decade later Marjoriet is cancer-free, has two beautiful boys, and is an inspiration to everyone she comes in contact with.

What inspired you to start Devin and Tristan Give Back?

That is simple, my son’s Devin and Tristan.  From the moment I found out I was pregnant with my first son, I knew it was only a matter of time that my past would haunt me. My battle with cancer was not a secret in my relationship but my oncologist told me 10 years earlier that this day would never come. I knew that I beat the odds and now had a message to deliver. We held our very first toy drive at our baby shower in lieu of a wishing well and invited the Director of the Tomorrow’s Children’s Foundation at Hackensack University Center to attend. Being treated for cancer is incredibly difficult both physically & financially. Lynn Hoffman made sure my family was taken care of all through my treatment and this was the least I can do to help repay our gratitude. To her surprise we made the announcement that we were proud to share this day with the children currently receiving treatment as a symbol of hope. We then designated a charity to each of our sons vowing to make donations each year on their birthday. I wanted them to grow up aware of their mom’s disease and struggle. Deciding to create our own organization became the next obvious venture after realizing that there was a lot more work to do than just a once a year donation.  Since creating DTGB, we have held six toy drives, pet food drives, clothing drives and much more. We were heavily involved in the recovery process for Hurricane Sandy victims working with the Hawaiian Airlines and other large organizations. We held several activities in our community ranging from story time at our local library all the way up to bingo at the senior center.

Why is this organization important for the Latino community?

I have noticed that in my community there are no family-friendly Latino programs. The language barrier prevents them from participating in social activities and discourages them to interact. DTGB is currently in the process of creating programs specifically intended for Latinos who are seeking motivation and encouraging their creativity.  We are in the early stages of creating a program called “Tiempo con Mi Mama” that will offer fun projects for mothers and daughters to do together. Also, we have developed an all Mom Focus Group, which allows them to bond and swap tips. We wanted to create a program to help develop their skills and give them an outlet to express themselves. We feel that it is important to show kids that their parents are motivated to become better citizens & will help develop a sense of pride in their children. Growing up with parents that are involved in their community will send a positive message and can be the defining factor for whether their child later participates in school sports and activities. We are trying to bring back the art of volunteering and getting involved in our community. Technology has taken over today’s youth and has made daily interaction a thing of the past.

You are a cancer survivor. What piece of advice or encouragement would you want to share with others who are fighting cancer themselves, or who are watching a loved one battle cancer?

Cancer is a battle. There is no way to cover that up. Whether you are fighting it or helping support a loved one, you absolutely will ask “Why me?” and that is alright. But do not obsess over it and become a victim. Grieve your old life, the life where small things mattered. Both of you are now on a journey to meet a new and better version of you self. They will discover courage, faith, a new sense of appreciation, together they will become emotional and sentiment, they will meet a much more amazing version of themselves. Chemo will wash away your appearance and your strength but the fighter inside of you is determined by your own will. Do not surround yourself with pity or sorrow. Allow yourself to laugh. Laugh a lot. Be present in every moment. You will learn to appreciate the world for the value it really is. You have to make the conscious decision to own this battle. Make this about you. You will sort through bills and financial feuds later…this is the time to be in the moment. You will meet incredible people along the way and take every experience as a lesson to be learned.  Do not allow yourself to pass on life changing opportunities. Those are the days that may change your life forever.

What gives you the most pride about being Latina?

As a child, I thought I needed to have blond hair and blue eyes to be beautiful. I was always told that I spoke too loud and was stared at when I laughed. I was under the impression that my voluptuous body type meant I was fat and awkward. Boy was I wrong. I was perfect. I am Latina. Due to the lack of Latina presence in the media, I had no one to compare my dark features and curves too. The unfortunate death of Selena was the first real glimpse I had of a true successful Latina. Since then Latinas have gained respect in political and cooperate positions and created a new fan base in the entertainment and sports industry. Being of Latino descent has not only defined my true character but has allowed me to embrace all that makes me unique.  I am proud to celebrate my heritage and share it with my children. Now being a Latina mom and being acknowledged by a mainstream magazine proves that we are now positive role models for the next generation.

How can someone get involved with Devin and Tristan Give Back?

They can visit our website at www.devintristangiveback.com and submit their contact information. Although we are located in the NYC area, distance should not discourage anyone from contacting us. We enjoy connecting with people from all over, people wanting to make a difference. We establish great relationships and help guide them through the process. If they have an idea, we can help make it happen. I would also like to mention, I love hearing from people who have been newly diagnosed and need someone to talk to. I have an advantage that most people take comfort in. I suffered my illness when I was a teenager and I recall what that experience was like. I can relate to that lifestyle, but now as a parent I can also help guide parents who have children battling cancer today.

Do you know someone who has an inspiring story to share? Email us at InspiringLatinas@Latina.com!

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