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Paulina’s Story: Finding Safety through Client Advocacy

Paulina’s Story: Finding Safety through Client Advocacy

Paulina was born and raised in Peru. An intelligent woman, Paulina flourished in school and became an attorney. Through her work she met her husband, who promised her the world. Excited at the prospect of spending her life with the man she loved, she moved to America to be with him.

Once they arrived in the U.S. they married. Shortly thereafter Paulina’s husband became emotionally and physically abusive. The violence continued even when Paulina was pregnant. When she gave birth to their child, he refused to recognize his daughter. A paternity test was done and the results were positive, but he still did not wish to be in the child’s life. Paulina tried to live with the man she thought she loved, but he wanted nothing to do with her or the baby and threatened to have her deported.

Paulina came to United States with hopes of a prosperous future with her husband, a U.S. citizen. However, her dreams quickly faded when her husband became violent. Paulina lived in constant fear and was a prisoner in her own home. At one point, she was afraid she was going to die and leave her family all alone.

After three years of physical and emotional abuse, Paulina had had enough. She no longer wanted to be afraid. She sought help and was referred to Tacoma Community House. Through the Client Advocacy program, Paulina had help finding housing and received public assistance, immigration services and social security. She thanks her advocate for helping her and her family reach stability and security.

Additionally, with her advocate‘s assistance, she and her family are now permanent residents. Paulina says it was her advocate’s encouragement that gave her the strength she needed to keep moving forward. She never thought she’d get out of the rough spot she was living in, but her determination and tenacity helped pave the way for stability for herself and her family.

Paulina recently completed ESL classes at TCH. She knew learning English is necessary so she can communicate with others, navigate the bus system, understand the culture, and much more. She plans on furthering her education so she can provide for her family. For the brief time she’s been volunteering with the Juvenile Court, Paulina has been recognized for being smart and a quick learner. Her goal is to, once again, work in the court system — this time as a paralegal.

“Tacoma Community House is essential for the community,” Paulina shared. She hopes one day she can pay it forward and give back to the organization that helped her get back on her feet.

Interested in helping women like Paulina? Support our Client Advocacy program by making a contribution today and/or by donating Orca cards or gift cards.

If you are interested in learning more about client advocacy, please contact the Client Advocacy Manager Rocio Chavez de Alvarado.

Meet Nabeel

There is an Arab saying that “Knowledge is light, and it is the light of your life.” Nabeel took this saying to heart, followed his dream and focused on education at Tacoma Community House. But his life had taken many twists and turns before he arrived at our door.

Nabeel attended school in America through the 8th grade. His parents then moved the family to Yemen so they could learn about their cultural heritage. Years later, Nabeel returned to Tacoma and began a career in the shipping industry. He worked hard as a sailor and wanted to be the best in his profession. “People said I could make it to captain,” Nabeel shared. As a sailor he was financially secure and able to provide for his wife and son living in Yemen.

Working at sea had its rewards, but it did take a toll. With his wife and son moving to the United States to be reunited, it was no longer suitable to be away for extended periods. He left the shipping industry and attempted to find a different profession closer to home. Without a high school education, finding employment was difficult. Nabeel sought help and advice from family and friends and was eventually referred to TCH.

Nabeel enrolled in Adult Basic Education (ABE) classes. After only three weeks his teacher encouraged him to take the GED® tests, which he passed on his first attempt! Excited at the prospect of advancing himself further, he registered in the Crash Course to Employment. Through the workshop he learned that he was capable of more. He improved his interview skills, created resumes and cover letters and gained a tremendous boost of confidence. He began an apprenticeship through the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitter and just recently started a job!

Jubilant with the direction his life is taking thanks to TCH, Nabeel encouraged his wife, Amani, to enroll in English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. “I want to show her that knowledge is light, and it is the light of your life,” Nabeel said. An avid supporter of Amani’s education, Nabeel is encouraging her to continue her education through ABE and citizenship classes. “Without your help, I wouldn’t be here,” he asserts. Nebeel and Amani believe that nothing could be better than improving the quality of their lives and becoming fully contributing members of society.

Help more families like Nabeel and Amani by making a contribution today. Click here to donate

Meet Safiah

When Safiah first came to the United States, she depended almost entirely on her husband to interpret the strange and confusing language and culture so alien from the Yemeni village where she grew up. Since then, she has come to trust another reliable source of information and assistance, where she feels as much at home as in her own apartment: Tacoma Community House. “I have good people here. They’re like my family,” said Safiah, who credits her growing English skills and self confidence in part to the patience, generosity and compassion of her TCH teachers.

With three youngsters still at home, and a husband who sometimes works overseas, it’s been hard for Safiah to commit to a regular class schedule. But for about a dozen years, she’s valued TCH as a fountainhead of knowledge and assistance, not only for herself, but for other Arabic speakers. “I bring all my friends here,” she said. In English and citizenship classes, she’s encountered students from all over the world: China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Russia, Mexico, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan. “They accept all the people from all the places, from all different cultures,” Safiah said.

She cherishes the camaraderie of fellow language learners. Malapropisms and pronunciation mistakes are common. “I’m all the time making mistakes, but the teachers say, ‘It’s okay, we’ll get it right in the future.” She recalled one lesson when students suggested home remedies for a cold. Safiah offered tea and soap. The faces of classmates immediately turned quizzical. “Tea and what, Safiah?” the teacher asked. “Soap, soap. What? Do I say something wrong?” Safiah responded. “Soap is for the laundry,” said the teacher. “Oh,” said Safiah. Everybody laughed.

Now in advanced classes, Safiah would like to go on to earn a GED. “Until now, I’m not good for speaking English, but I try.” In her case, the difficulty is compounded by the fact that she has had almost no formal education. As a child, she was taught to write her name and read Arabic, but little more. Instead, she was prepared for marriage. The mother of five adult children, Safiah was a divorcee when her husband returned to his native country to find a wife about 15 years ago. Before the marriage, they were not permitted to meet. Safiah could only sneak a peek at her future husband from afar. But when she recalls what went through her head at the time, her eyes light up. “He’s an American,” she said to herself. “This will change my life forever.”

Fortunately, the marriage has been a success, and she credits her husband, Moses, a merchant marine seaman, with easing the transition to American culture. And with help from TCH, she’s become a citizen and learned enough English to get a driver’s license. She’s also made new friends. One is a pharmacist from Russia. “I’d love to be able to say, ‘Good morning,’ in Russian,” Safiah said. “But it’s too hard.”

Special thanks to Susan Gordon, former News Tribune writer and one of TCH’s fabulous volunteers, who wrote this article.