There is a famous quote by Sister Juana Inés de la Cruz that states “no estudio par saber más, sino para ignorar menos”, which roughly translates to “I do not study to know more, but rather to ignore less.” If someone were to ask me to sum up the past couple of months that I have spent volunteering at Taller de José, this is the quote I would utilize. The amount of information that I have learned through this wonderful opportunity to volunteer at Taller de José is endless, with much of it coming from interactions with some clients and the staff here. In the few months that I have been here, I have had the opportunity to learn more about acompañamiento, the needs of local community members, the best way to provide them with support to meet said needs, whether it is directly or indirectly, and the implications of becoming involved in this work that advocates for and supports local communities and their members.
I think that there is this notion that many social workers and social justice advocates have when they are first getting started on their journey of involvement. They may enter the field with the idea or belief that they are entering communities to guide and lead its members to where they need to be. However, this is not the case. The truth is, communities and their members are more than capable of achieving this on their own. They are powerful and resilient beyond belief. They have the motivation to advocate for what they need. As social workers, we are simply joining their community as learners, not as leaders. The time that I have spent at Taller de José has further helped me realize this. Thanks to being able to shadow compañerxs, and their interactions with clients, as well as one or two interactions I have had with clients, I have been granted the amazing opportunity of witnessing the resiliency and power of the community members in La Villita. I have met some of the strongest individuals who have persevered through difficult situations and continue to show up with the kindest words and the most wonderful smiles.
Through these experiences I have realized that, in a way, the community and its members are the ones who guide and help us by welcoming us with open arms, allowing us to learn from them, and also allowing us to provide bits and pieces of support here and there as their resiliency guides them through difficult situations and towards their goals. They allow us to enter their communities and provide us with the ability to establish deep, meaningful connections with their members so that we may find our place in the world. We are granted the privilege to develop what bell hooks calls “loving friendships” which then “provide us with a space to experience the joy of community in relationships where we learn to process all of our issues, to cope with differences and conflict while staying connected.” During my time here, I have observed that Taller de José fully embodies the idea of developing “loving friendships” both within its staff and also with members in the community as everyone works alongside each other to achieve their goals, help, and learn from each other. I am, and will always be, grateful for having the opportunity to learn from staff and clients to become more culturally aware as well as experience the love and support put out by Taller de José.
Written by Gloria Goray (she/they)
Gloria is serving at Taller de José through the Ministry en lo Cotidiano program at Dominican University.