As a social work intern specializing in macro practice and development work, I was unsure how I would experience accompaniment in my placement at Taller de José. While most volunteers accompany clients through U.S. systems as a Compañerx, I have worked with the Mission Advancement Coordinator to submit grant proposals to support our mission and I have carried out a client focus group project to inform future development of the accompaniment program. As I knew that I would not be working one-on-one with clients, I wondered where I would find moments of connection to the Taller de José team, clients, and to the communities we provide our services out of, Little Village and Maywood.
I have found connection and support from the entire team of Compañerx and the Administrative staff in the conversations had in meetings about updated community resources and time spent together celebrating holidays. I am grateful for the widely available PPE and the COVID-19 vaccine that has allowed me to get to know and work with such an amazing group of people in-person after months of uncertainty and isolation.
Through virtual and in-person client focus groups at our main Taller de José office and at the Quinn Center of St. Eulalia, I have felt connected to the communities and people Taller de José serves. I have witnessed people telling stories of their experiences through the pandemic and how this has widened gaps to systems that were only accessible by Taller de José’s accompaniment services. In a time when relationships have been difficult to create and maintain, I also saw the power of group support as clients connected with others who have had similar experiences and shared advice with one another to get through current challenges.
While I initially understood accompaniment as walking alongside people as they encounter the world, I now have a wider definition that includes the practice of intentional presence and listening to their stories of lived experience.
Written by Abby Carlson-Edwards (she/her)
Abby is serving at Taller de José as an MSW intern through Loyola University.