As a Mexican immigrant, advocating for the Latino and migrant community has always been a part of my life. Fighting for the human rights of under-represented and disadvantaged groups was a main reason for choosing a career in social work. I’m originally from El Distrito Federal, Mexico but I moved to the Southwest side of Chicago when I was seven. Growing up in Brighton Park provided me with the opportunity to see the difficulties people went through in these neighborhoods, not only because I was with them but, because I was one of them.
I saw the violence rising in my community and taking the life of a dear friend of mine in 8th grade. I heard the whispers at the bus stop saying another I.C.E raid had occurred. I felt the pain of the hard working community whose only mistake was wanting a better life for their loved ones.
This is the reality of many neighborhoods not only in Chicago, but all over the world. At Taller de José I have the opportunity and privilege to be a part of the movement for change and advocacy. By accompanying our clients through their struggles and worries, we aim to provide them with the additional support they may need. From helping them fill out a job application to walking side by side with them into a court room, we ensure our clients have access to all the resources available to them and help guide them through the process.
I recall a particular experience with two of my clients. An elderly couple that were unfortunately affected by many illnesses. Roberto* had cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, and arthritis. Lolita* had diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, a fractured arm, and earaches. Both were very skinny, fragile, and small. They were both undocumented immigrants and expressed their concerns of not being able to work because of their age and status. Roberto and Lolita appeared very vulnerable from the outside, but they had an incredible resilience built within. To sustain themselves the couple sold pescaditos and chicharrones on a small food cart in the Little Village neighborhood. With this money, they paid their rent, utility bills, medical bills, and the food for their cart. Having the opportunity to work with Roberto and Lolita gave me the affirmation I needed to keep contributing to my community through Taller de José.
As an intern compañera I feel beyond grateful that my clients have given me their trust and shared their life stories and wisdom with me. I feel lucky to be given the privilege of walking with them through their journey of life. But more than that, I feel tremendous joy of helping the community that raised me and learning how to be the social worker the community needs.
*names changed for client confidentiality