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 Jania

Gazing through the windows or walking the halls of Tacoma Community House from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. during the education quarter, you see classrooms filled with eager adult learners trying to improve their English skills or learning American history in order to pass the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) exam to become American citizens. However, during the last 30 minutes of one citizenship class last summer, the room was filled with celebratory noise as Jania, the most recent TCH Immigration Services participant to receive her citizenship, returned to share her experience with her classmates over the quintessential American party foods of pizza, cake and soda (which she provided).

Originally from Guatemala, Jania moved to the United States 19 years ago seeking a better life. Guatemala’s 33 year civil war – a microcosm of the uprisings that took place in Central America between indigenous peoples and conservative regimes – was just coming to an end. Though the first few years in the U.S. were rough, Jania has had a good life as she found a stable job and watched her children excel in school. To symbolize the importance of her journey in the United States, Jania wanted to become a citizen. Upon hearing that permanent residents can apply for citizenship and take classes at no cost, Jania enrolled in Citizenship Classes in January 2014. After 6 months on the road to citizenship – which included filling out applications, taking fingerprints, waiting, familiarizing herself with U.S. history and conversational English, Jania took and passed her citizenship exam with a perfect score!

When asked how it felt to become a citizen, taking a deep breath of relief, she answered “profudamente satisfecha” which from Spanish translates to “profoundly satisfied.” “This has opened doors for me to have a better life for myself and my family.” Jania mentioned that a better life for her meant having the opportunity to vote. She specifically recalled learning about the democratic process in citizenship class and her teacher telling the class, “Your voice matters.”

Janai’s return to the classroom was an added blessing along her journey. She said that she was so filled with happiness, she wanted to share it with others. Most importantly, she felt compelled to return to TCH to give her classmates hope. “I wanted them to know that all that they were going through will not be in vain. I wanted them to know that they will make it,” she added.

Jania reached this milestone along with her daughter Jania Sarai. Last year, Jania Sarai graduated from a national technical college where she specialized in Forensic Science. She hopes to further her education, fulfill her dream of becoming an American citizen and serve in the military.

Jania and her family await the day when her classmates also become U.S. citizens and are ‘profundamente satisfecha!’

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 Shakira

Meet Shakira

For many, the immigrant experience brings many challenges beyond learning a new language. Shakira came to Tacoma Community House fleeing an emotional and physically abusive relationship — she was afraid, spoke no English and was financially insecure —  having left her family and friends in Colombia, Shakira felt alone.

“When I came for the first time, I thought life was hard. My advocate at TCH taught me that it wasn’t difficult.”

Client Advocacy gave her the freedom and the courage she needed to start a new life with her two sons. She was provided with legal advocacy and attained her U-visa, paving the way to self-sufficiency and success.

Being an ambitious woman, Shakira took English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education classes at TCH. She excelled in all of her studies. She quickly learned English and soon after transferred to Highline Community College to further her education and pursue a career in Nursing. To help finance her education and care for her two sons, Shakira attained her license to start her own cleaning business. She hopes to expand the business by hiring others and managing the business while going to school. “I feel free, I don’t depend on anyone. No one is controlling me or being abusive. I am not afraid and I speak English now!”

Grateful for the services she received at TCH, Shakira intends on paying it forward. By using her testimony, she hopes to encourage other women who have experienced similar hardships to come out of the shadows and leave behind their abusive partners. She plans to volunteer with TCH in the future and provide support and encouragement for other women. Four years ago, Shakira didn’t know how to speak English, didn’t have a driver’s license, didn’t have a job and wasn’t going to school. Today, Shakira knows how to speak English, owns her own business and is going to college. “Today, I look back and have come so far and would not have done it without TCH.”

Interested in helping women like Shakira? 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.

Flavorful Prizes

Are you ready for some flavor? Treat yourself for a day of flavor on Thursday, October 23, 2014 by enjoying a meal out at a participating restaurant. Restaurants are donating 25% of your food bill to programs and services that strengthen the lives of immigrants, refugees and other community members throughout the Puget Sound region.

And, did we mention you’ll have the opportunity to win some exciting prizes by supporting Flavor? All you have to do is stand up for immigrants while sitting down for a meal on Thursday, October 23.

  • Grand Prize: 7-day/6-night tropical vacation. Choose between two luxurious locations: Cabo San Lucas, Mexico or St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands. Enjoy your stay at a condo that sleeps 4 comfortably.  Airfare not included.  Other restrictions apply. Valued at $1,750. Donated by Anonymous.
  • First Prize: Salon Escape Spa. Enjoy a year of designer haircuts at an official Aveda salon. Guests enjoy six cuts from a remarkable stylist. Valued at $225. Donated by Bradley Rollins.
  • Second Prize: Northwest Trek and Woodland Park Zoo Family Passes. Have fun with the family and explore the Puget Sound’s wild side. Valued at $140. Donated by Northwest Trek and Woodland Park Zoo
  • Third Prize: Stadium Art & Wine Walk Tickets + Wine Basket. Wine lovers rejoice! Indulge in 4 tickets to Tacoma’s Stadium Art & Wine Walk and a wine basket that will make sommeliers jealous. Valued at $140. Donated by TCH’s Board of Directors

Entry form provided at participating restaurants. 

Fast Lane to Employment

Ready to find employment, but not sure where to start? Crash Course to Employment is an intensive two-week employment readiness program providing job seekers the tools they need to be successful in their careers. During the workshop participants learn about:

  • Goal setting
  • Job search techniques
  • Tailoring resumes and cover letters
  • Job placement services
  • And more

The employment team at Tacoma Community House is dedicated to preparing individuals for a competitive job market. Upon completion of the workshop, participants are prepared to find employment on their own or receive job placement services with help from a TCH Job Developer.

The fall workshop begins on September 15, 2014 and runs through September 25, 2014 from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Those who are interested in participating in the workshop must attend an information session at Tacoma Community House:

  • Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 9:00 a.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 10 at 3:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 11 at 9:00 a.m.

Download the Crash Course to Employment Flyer

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.

Jasmine Bakery is Awesome

Tacoma Community House and Jasmine Bakery have an almost 20-year relationship, sending English as a Second Language and Adult Basic Education clients to Bob Miller at Jasmine Bakery for employment. Bob runs a family-owned bakery and encourages his employees – who come from all over the world – to only speak English at work, no matter what their level. He really likes hiring ESL students, as they want to work, they are willing to learn and try different jobs, and they have a great overall work ethic. He also finds having a multi-cultural work force makes a good team – they like learning about each other’s backgrounds and form close working relationships.

Bob encourages his employees to go to school and is willing to work around people’s schedules for classes. He wants them to grab every opportunity afforded them here in the United States.

Meet Duy

Duy Nguyen Pham took English as a Second Language classes at Tacoma Community House (TCH) for six months at the end of 2012, moving from ESL level 2 to level 4. He also sought services from the Employment Department which led to a job he enjoys. A few months ago, he started his job as a maintenance technician at Jasmine Bakery. He works on fixing motors, maintaining beaters and working different bread machines. He was an electrician in his home country of Vietnam, so this job is a great fit for him. He misses his classes at TCH, especially his teacher, but working and taking care of his family is his priority. His eight month old daughter is number one with him right now, but he will encourage her to go to school, especially college, because “college is important.” He plans to come back to school soon though, as “school helps with anything!”

Help more individuals like Duy by making a contribution today. Click here to donate.