This post comes from Norma Marti, one of our special guests at El Futuro’s 20th Anniversary Luncheon on April 26, 2024

In my heart, I have always supported El Futuro, so when one of El Futuro’s board members invited me to attend their 20th Anniversary Luncheon, it was an easy yes for me. I had originally met Luke Smith at some community organizing event in the mountains twenty years ago and as he talked about this new idea to provide mental health services directly to the Latino community, I remember thinking “That’s an interesting idea.”

Fast forward twenty years to the 2024 Luncheon where 300 people came together in one place to celebrate the reverberating impact of that “interesting idea.” And it did feel like a celebration! I saw former colleagues, professional contacts, and so many friends – old and new. It was another reminder that the Latino community is growing and the support for mental health and wellness is as well. As El Futuro continues to grow as a community-driven organization, I look forward to seeing El Futuro incorporate more male voices since mental health is one of the issues that tend to be harder for men to discuss.

I especially loved that Marilu’s story was told in her native Spanish! Hers was a story of strength and endurance. I was reminded of a time a couple years ago when a project I worked with was developing mental health training for promotoras, in Spanish and English and we reached out to El Futuro, but at the time all their training materials were still in English. They went back to the drawing board and came back with materials in Spanish and a Spanish-speaking trainer to support their principal trainer, and it enriched the effectiveness of their work. We are all moving forward little by little with strength and endurance.

As I listened to the testimonies at the Luncheon and the stories of the community health worker, the therapist, and the clergyperson, I felt close to tears. This is what we are here to do – to make a difference in people’s lives. Not all of us can be a therapist, but we all have a little something that we can contribute.

I, for one, dream of providing a respite to Latino parents of children with special healthcare needs. It’s an idea I’m calling “Casa Abuelita” where moms and dads who don’t have grandparents nearby can have a weekend escape where they can simply rest, eat well, learn some simple meditation practices, and have a mental health break. I am working with ULECAN (Unión Latina del Este de Carolina del Norte) to make it a reality and we will be taking our first two groups of families to a donated Airbnb home on the North Carolina coast this November. I am an abuelita myself so eventually I will have to entrust this “interesting idea” to the next generation, but that is what it is all about!

Congratulations to El Futuro for twenty years of dreaming. Here is my haiku inspired by what I heard at the Luncheon:

“A future right here…
Hope, new life…blesses us all.
Dreams are possible.”
—Norma Martí

Norma Marti is oftentimes referred to as one of the “abuelas de Latinos” in North Carolina due to her lifetime of hard work dedicated to increasing collaboration between the Latino community and the organizations that provide goods and services to them. If you would like to learn more about how to get involved with her “Casa de Abuelita” project, please email her at

View Marilu’s video HERE 

Pictured in photo (left to right): Yazmin Garcia Rico, Lucy Vidal, Norma Marti, Gabriela Maradiaga Panayotti, Viviana Martinez-Bianchi, Leonor Corsino, Anne Fields