By Grasiela Victor, Social Work Intern Compañera
When I first applied to Taller de José for an internship, I was hoping to put my Spanish to good use. I had previously been working at an agency where I was the only Spanish-speaking staff member. In that role, I was able to see how powerful being bilingual truly is. As I was deciding where I wanted to complete my internship, I saw Taller de José as an opportunity to have more interactions with Spanish-speaking clients. When interviewing for this position, I remember saying that the role seemed to be what I have been doing for my family my entire life. So far, it has been. I can remember so many instances during my childhood where I felt dread and resentment when someone would ask me to translate or help them fill out an application. As a Compañera, filling out applications, translating, making phone calls, and looking up information are all part of the daily routine. Now, I feel a sense of fulfillment and joy knowing I can help the parents of a kid who doesn’t want to spend their afternoon filling out an application.
When I first heard about Taller de José and the services they offered, I thought to myself “Where was this place 14 years ago?”. I thought about all of the endless appointments I was dragged to, all of the paperwork I didn’t understand, and the endless hours I spent on hold on the phone for one of my relatives. I can only imagine how much easier my life would have been if my parents had a Compañera helping them navigate everything that comes with living in a new country. In this role, I’ve realized how appreciative my parents must have been for my help then. Through my conversations with clients, I’ve found that they feel a sense of guilt having to ask for help. I’ve made it my priority to show my enthusiasm in assisting them and try to make them feel like they’re making my day better by allowing me to help them.
I’ve spent my time at Taller de José working primarily out of our Quinn Center office. One of the goals I had in mind starting off my internship was to make more people aware of the services offered at the agency. I live in the Northwest suburbs, and compared to Little Village, there are not a lot of resources out here serving the Latino community. It has been my hope to increase the number of clients served at the Quinn Center. I know there are a lot of people in this area that would benefit from our services. In an effort to build our clientele, I have been out doing community outreach in places I am familiar with and where I know there are people who need help. It has been very rewarding to return to places I hadn’t been to since I was younger, now in a different role and able to offer some help. Through our outreach efforts, I’ve been able to hear a lot of stories directly from clients and their struggles in finding resources. Additionally, attending different events in the community has broadened my knowledge of resources available and how powerful it can be to get people together in one space to identify the needs of their community.