Transitioning from being the office manager to a compañera has been an interesting experience. I think that deep down inside I was meant to be a compañera. Before I was even considered for the position, a woman named Camila* came to the office. Camila is an elderly woman who I remember had previously worked with one of our interns. Camila would typically come in and was then taken upstairs to an office for her appointment. I never really knew the story of Camila.
Recently, Camila came in without an appointment. She came up to me and asked for the intern that she had previously worked with. I informed her that the intern was no longer working with us. At that moment I didn’t have anyone available to assist her so I took it upon myself to help her. Camila informed me that she needed someone to accompany her to her Citizenship interview which was scheduled within a week and a half from when she came in. I took down the details and made a copy of her letter. I read the letter out loud to her and asked her if she had copies of all the documents they were requesting, and she said no.
I asked Camila to bring in the documents sometime during the week. I told her that I would make copies and help keep them organized. Before saying goodbye I smiled and asked “are you ready for your interview?” She looked towards the ground and said that she hadn’t practiced her questions. Immediately I told her not to worry and that I could print them out for her, she stopped me and told me that she couldn’t read. At that moment I didn’t know how to respond, I didn’t know what to say. Camila’s interview was a week and a half away, she is much older, does not read, and does not understand English. I looked at Camila, smiled and asked her if she wanted me to help her practice. She smiled and said yes.
Camila returned the next day; I created flash cards for her and taught her to read some words in English. At the end of the day I asked Camila if she wanted to practice the next day and she said yes. Camila continued to come to practice. The last day that I practiced with her, she asked me if I could accompany her and I informed her that I couldn’t. I told Camila that I had someone who would be able to accompany and interpret. Camila was very nervous because this was the third time that she had gone to the interview. I reassured her that she would do great, to stay calm, and to take her time. The day of her interview I hugged Camila and wished her luck. About an hour and a half later I received confirmation that Camila had passed her exam!
I was so excited to receive the good news. Everyone around the office kept telling me that Camila had passed because of me. I believe that Camila passed because she was determined. I have never seen someone who was so willing to go out of their way to succeed. Camila didn’t have anyone to assist her, she struggled with language, literacy, and navigation, but she didn’t let any of these obstacles get in her way!
*All stories are based on real client stories, but names and details have been changed to protect client confidentiality.