Education Grant Recipient’s Story of Resilience and Strength  |  January 7, 2015

I24 - Rivas, Jose - Photon 2013, AlloSource began a 10-year partnership with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, pledging an annual financial contribution to fund their scholarship program. For more than 35 years, the Phoenix Society has worked with survivors, families, healthcare professionals and the fire industry to support recovery from burns, improve the quality of burn care and prevent burn injuries. Here is the story of a 2014 Education Grant Recipient.

Though he was too young to comprehend the devastation of the Salvadoran Civil War, Jose Rivas experienced it firsthand when he suffered burns on 25-percent of his body when he was just three years old. Six years later, Jose and his family fled El Salvador to seek medical treatment for him in California.

The Salvadoran Civil War, and the scars it inflicted upon me, has inspired me to look back at my country and appreciate the beauty of the land, its rich history and culture, and the people who paid the ultimate price to stop the injustice,” said Jose.

Instead of allowing the tragedy of his past define him, Jose overcame his challenges and now looks forward to a future focused on teaching and writing.

In addition to attending school to pursue a teaching career, Jose also works as a teaching assistant and tutors foster kids of varying ages. His background provides an ideal foundation for him to work with children who speak English as a second language.

I feel a sense of satisfaction when one of my students understands an assignment or is inspired by a particular subject,” Jose said.

When he isn’t going to school or teaching, Jose also finds time to write. He is currently working on several short stories and novels. He also enjoys writing and sharing letters on his blog.

I’ve made the decision to write stories that will inspire and make a difference in young Salvadorans who can ignite a spark of hope and stop the injustice that still continues to affect our land even 20 years since the last trigger was pulled.”

Jose hopes to volunteer at Shriner’s Hospital where he plans to not only share his story (and stories he has written) but also mentor and support young burn survivors. Through readings and peer support workshops, he hopes to create awareness and become a role model for all children. 

It’s been great and challenging, not only because I was a burn survivor but also because I was an English learner too,” he said. “I seek to write stories that will give children laughter and joy, and let them see the beauty that always lies ahead.”


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