Image by Patrick Fore

Blog Post

 
 

A Warm Welcome

Updated: Apr 3

I am Yvette Bonilla-Leach, my pronouns are she/her; I am comfortable stating that I am undiagnosed ADHD and am the Founder and President of Alora Farm – Love Grows Here.


Why Alora

If you've visited our homepage, you know that I am the mother of an 18-year-old son named Keith. As a family, we know that he will not live entirely independently. His support needs run a little higher because his ASD and ADHD present challenges. When he was 14, we visited a community resource center that helps with adult transitioning information and planning for those with disabilities. We hoped he would have social and artistic opportunities, but they are scarce, and his long-term living arrangements are precarious; when we pass away, he will end up living in a state-run group home. This version of the future did not sit well with us, and there were many sleepless nights, anxiety, and pressure to get him "ready" to make it on his own. I used to try and push him to "do more," it did nothing but lead him to believe that I didn't accept him for who he was.


My son and I love each other very much and are now closer than ever. I regret my previous unfair expectations. I had to earn back his trust and was happy to do so. There is nothing wrong with my son and never was; it's not Keith (or anyone in a marginalized community) that needs the push to change. It's the system.


Alora became an idea after working outdoors with Keith. Now, he is not a big fan of getting his hands dirty, but he will for a bit with gloves on because he enjoys the beauty and slower, more leisurely pace of a garden (he's a Taurus, no surprise there). He is way more chill and focused when we're through.


Here are some quick facts:

  • we filed as a Texas Nonprofit Corporation in July 2020

  • received approval from the IRS on our 501(c)(3) application in May 2021

  • built a strong board of directors by November of 2021

  • we developed an art program that debuts in March.

  • expanded our network.

  • decided to be genuinely inclusive and invite those with an IDD or DD to join our programs.

  • created an art brokerage for neurodivergent artists (launching Summer-Fall 2022

We began during the pandemic; the slow start provided time to think things through, be discerning, and make significant, practical decisions to keep this project moving forward.


A Little About Me

Everyone says I should talk more about myself, but I can't for the life of me figure out why. I'm not that interesting, and this is not about me, but if it helps manifest Alora, I'm happy to do it.


A significant chapter in my life was that I was born into poverty and grew up in the projects, becoming homeless at thirteen and remaining so until nineteen. I lived on the streets, and no, it wasn't easy, far from it. I am a recovering addict, which some (my therapists and psychologists) say is a logical outcome of my past trauma. I haven't shared this freely about myself because of society's lack of compassion, (mis)treatment of, and criminalization of addicts and the homeless; the stigma caused me to be ashamed of my story/myself. The fact of the matter is that there was nothing I could do about what I was born into.


Breast Cancer

The next significant chapter occurred in 2010 when I was diagnosed with Stage IIB breast cancer. It was just short of a year of treatment that included a double mastectomy, radical on the right, five rounds (months) of chemo that left me with gnarly peripheral neuropathy. There were also multiple surgeries, including reconstruction, and I did not escape the other side effects such as nausea and total hair loss. Prices gladly paid because I am fortunate and thankful to be alive. I no longer care to dole out unsolicited advice, but if there is one befitting the benefit of my experience, it would be to get those mammograms and give yourself self-exams. Early detection is critical.


Photo of a BIPOC woman with curly hair, wearing a black blazer, red, white, and black blouse, jeans is outdoors sitting on the ground smiling with a fluffy white chicken on her lap.
Alora Farm Founder/President, Yvette Bonilla-Leach

I am a practicing Buddhist, my heritage is indigenous (Taíno), and I have a fair amount of Africana. I was born in Queens, NY (Nuyorican), grew up in South Florida (your girl is a 305 OG), and moved to Texas in 2002. I travel back from time to time to see my family and visit my favorite south Florida beaches. My professional background is in finance, team building, and management.


A few more interests are music, art, and dancing, but two more that took me by surprise and I am currently studying are esoteric psychology and astrology. Esoteric Astrology is the study of patterns & cycles, ageless wisdom, and the hidden effects of the principles or laws of physics, such as the Laws of Repulsion, Attraction, and Correspondence in our solar system; the energies you know exist but can't touch, see, or measure. Since both are subjective subjects, it is difficult to call them sciences, so I offer you a successful collaborative project between scientists and the Dalai Lama called the Mind & Life Institute. I don't know if they work with astrologers; I present an example of the shift and subsequent benefits when science and wisdom work together.


Some role models are Thich Nhat Hahn (RIP), and Grandmother Flordemayo. Gabor Mate is a significant influencer because of his work in my fields of interest - trauma, addiction, and grief. The Dalai Lama, for living and modeling compassion and kindness, and the poet Heidi Rose Robbins, for her ability to help others see the love & potential in themselves.


Auntie Mame

When I grow up, I want to be Auntie Mame, a character from a book that went on to be a successful Broadway show and then a beloved movie. Lucille Ball did a lovely job with the role, but my favorite is Rosalyn Russell's portrayal of her.