What motivates a young immigrant from Brazil to create a charity based insurance company in America and donate her first year’s commission to the Hope Center, (a faith based rescue center for women who have been human trafficked?) It is the same character that motivated her to reach out to help an unknown story teller who shared a poignant glimpse into the life of her young family friend who is challenged with cerebral palsy. Vanessa Stringer leads a life of gratitude, appreciation and benevolence. Her early life in Brazil had everything to do with shaping her into the person she is today. Vanessa is an instrumental part of answering the prayer of this story teller who asked God for “immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine.” When you hear her story, you understand why.
Early Upbringing in Brazil
Vanessa grew up very poor in Parana, Brazil. Her older brother died when he was just 13 days old. She loved her parents and was a dutiful daughter who respected her parents and watched as they established a work ethic for her to pass along to her own children. Her father left home at 14 and went door to door looking for work. He was as strong as an adult and he worked hard as a farm laborer. A family reached out to him and took him in as one of their own.
When Vanessa was 11 months old, her mother and father sold all they had and moved to Sao Paulo, one of the largest cities in the world. It is Brazil’s equivalent to the Big Apple. The move was for a better life. Her father again knocked on doors, this time to get a construction job. He actually found two jobs and once again another family took him in, but this time he had a wife and daughter in tow. Vanessa’s father worked and worked and worked. He has a very big heart.
A Plywood Shack
One of Vanessa’s earliest memories is of their first house. It was a plywood shack with a dirt floor and she clearly remembers the placement of the furniture. It was about the size of her office at Collaborate 317. She remembers the smell of the soap from when she bathed in a stream as there was no indoor plumbing.
After a few months, she recalls neighbors screaming a warning to get out. The plywood shack (plus the shacks of 100 of her neighbors) was being burned to the ground. Her father along with hundreds of other naïve neighbors had paid for a spot of dirt, built their plywood homes in an attempt to make a better life and learned too late it was greed and corruption that robbed their dream.
There was no time to take anything. Mother and daughter were told to get away and Vanessa’s father stayed to help. They walked 12 miles to her Aunt’s house. They were introduced to TV and watched with horror as fire bombs and tear gas destroyed the illegal camp. Vanessa’s father arrived hours later covered in blood from helping others.
A Better Life
The same family who took them in when Vanessa’s family first moved to Sao Paulo had also watched the news and they began gathering clothes and toys for Vanessa. They offered the family a place to stay. Vanessa’s family started over again. Her father got a good job which required relocation and they moved in order to secure a better life.
At an early age, Vanessa knew she was meant to live a better life. Her parents did all they could to ensure this for her. The family was uprooted again when they were threatened from a local gang. They had 48 hours to leave town or be killed. They returned to Parana where Vanessa was born. She was only six but she instinctively knew she had to focus and study. First grade starts at age 7 but Vanessa was able to start at age 6.
The Inspiration From Mickey Mouse
When they lived with her Aunt in Sao Paulo, Vanessa remembers stamping the walls of the house with a Mickey Mouse stamp while her mother was in the shower. When her mother asked why she had done this, Vanessa replied “I have always wanted to live with Mickey Mouse and if I cannot go there, he will be here with me!” Mickey Mouse was the inspiration Vanessa used to find America. She knew he spoke a different language and she rolled her tongue and pretended to speak English because she knew she would need to move there someday.
Reward for Good Grades
The family never had money for Christmas, but her dad would give her a reward for her good grades. The reward was she got to pick something she wanted to study. She never ever missed a day of school and she lied to her mom when she had a sore throat because she did not want to miss school. One of her rewards was to go to a special school that taught Word, Excel and Windows. She was just 11. She was a knowledge junkie and if a free class was offered, she attended. She was everywhere all the time. Even back then she was the consummate networker!
Loved English WAY Too much
She was always translating. English school was always too expensive and she could not ask her parents because she knew they could not afford it. However, when she was 15, her father said to pick the best school and he would make it happen. English school takes 7 years. Vanessa said “I just loved English way too much and could not allow myself to wait for 7 years.” She completed the school in 2.5 years.
She became bold and brave and tested for admission to one of the most difficult translation schools (which is the U.S. college equivalent.) She got in as an English Major/Translator/Interpreter. It was difficult for her. In the class of 100 she was one of only three students who had never traveled outside of Brazil to English speaking countries. Her plan was to go to the United States for a year or two and then go back to Brazil where she would be much more respected.
Working For Passage to America
By this time she was working 45 hours per week teaching English in the same school from which she had just graduated, going to college 4 hours every day, commuting for an hour and then on weekends she took on private students of English to earn money for her passage to America. She was only 20 and too young to be a flight attendant, or to intern with Disney, so she prepared for the Au Pair program which is a way for foreign students to live as part of a host family and care for the children.
On December 27, 2007 just days after a very sad last Christmas with her parents, she left for the United States as an Au Pair to four children in Fishers, Indiana. Having never spent a night away from her parents, she cried herself to sleep on New Year’s Eve. She was determined to be a success. Her host family loved her. They treated her as family and made her Mickey Mouse dreams come true when they took her to Disney World.
The relationship with her host family has continued for 10 years. Vanessa worked with a second family caring for their children too. Both families have been an immeasurable blessing. They introduced her to the culture with much conversation, took her on ski trips, introduced her to an array of foods doing everything possible to help her build knowledge and perfect her language skills. Both families have been with Vanessa creating memories through every milestone in her American life. But most of all they loved her.
And so did a very special young man she met named Darren Stringer. Eventually they realized they were meant to be together. Vanessa returned to Brazil to obtain a work visa for the United States. Her visa was denied. Vanessa cried for nights on end. Prayers went up and miracles were orchestrated because God knew the plans he had for Vanessa and Darren. An immigration agent took her to a private room and told her what to say and her visa was approved and she was on her way back to the United States.
She married Darren and as they were about to embark on an adventure to Africa, Vanessa learned she was pregnant. Plans quickly changed. Darren started his own insurance agency. He worked two jobs. Vanessa worked on passing her insurance test. Quiet, shy Darren was out networking. Vanessa was watching the kids while processing insurance policies.
Fast forward a few years. Vanessa is now networking all around town. Darren and Vanessa have two children. They spend as much time as possible with the children. She has such gratitude toward Darren’s family for all the love and care shown to her. Vanessa and Darren have learned valuable lessons in business and have experienced setbacks along the way. Ever positive, they learn from mistakes and forge ahead to improve their insurance business.
One thing ingrained in Vanessa’s heart is how important it is to give back. She reflects on the kindness of strangers willing to take her father in as one of their own, not once but twice. She knows how many young women from Brazil have the desire for a better life in America and she also knows how many of them find themselves trapped in sex trafficking. She knows all too well how this could have easily happened to her. This is why she has such a heart for the women rescued by Hope Center Indy. This is why she gives donations to the Hope Center from her first year’s commission on a new policy from those who want to support Hope Center Indy.
Vanessa Stringer has a deep debt of gratitude for people who help her family. She considers her young friend Sydney Nicholas her family. Sydney’s family was instrumental in encouraging Vanessa in pursuit of her US citizenship. This is why she reached out to The Story Teller who helped her young friend and why she offered to help The Story Teller in gratitude for giving Sydney a chance to soar. Click to Read Sydney’s Story Vanessa loves connecting people and helping others to succeed.
Her heart swells as she reflects on three women she considers sisters who God has given her for encouragement. Vanessa reflects “I count on them to celebrate my victories and to console in my defeats.”
Vanessa and Darren’s MultiLine Independent Insurance Agency can shop rates with a multitude of A+ rated companies. Shop for homeowners, auto, boat, RV, commercial, and cyber protection. It takes only moments to get a quote. You could find you already have a great rate, or they could save you hundreds. Call Vanessa or Darren and see.
MultiLine Insurance Agency
Polly Riddell is writing under the pen name of G. Polly Jordan and is The Story Teller. She is a freelance journalist writing business spotlight promotional stories and positively in love with telling the God stories.
© The Story Teller 2018 Please share in its entirety with link back to story.