A Day in the Field

I thought I’d write about my field experience from this past Thursday.  It wasn’t out of the ordinary, but I’m still surprised by all of the new situations I’ve experienced.

I started the day doing a home visit with a woman who has tried to pass the driver’s license test several times but has been unsuccessful.  We’ll call her Ana. She can’t read or write and doesn’t speak English.  I tried calling the DMV to learn about her taking the test verbally, but I heard contradictory answers from two people.  Ana and I decided she would call to explain her situation when the Spanish speaking employee was in the office the next day.

Ana is dealing with serious depression, and I could feel her sadness and hopelessness when I walked into her home.  It’s a small, dark apartment with white, dingy walls and sheets covering the windows.  I can’t imagine dealing with depression and having to live in this type of environment.  Her husband is a construction worker, and his work schedule is pretty  inconsistent.  She has three children.  One is in school, and the other two are home with her during the day.  Their smiles were the only things that seemed to brighten that home.

After visiting with Ana, I went back to the office to do referrals for the food pantry we share a building with.  I love this part of my job.  I get to talk with people about their lives and help them find resources in the community.  Many people are pleasantly surprise that I speak Spanish and become more relaxed.  We try to create an environment where they don’t have to be in fear of being treated badly.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of people who volunteer in the food pantry who are not as welcoming as we try to be.  A co-worker and I were sitting in a cubicle talking when we over heard someone in another cubicle mention Latinos needing to “speak our language if they come to our country.”  I understand how difficult it is for native community members to adjust to change, but I also know how difficult it is to learn another language.  I haven’t met a Latino that has told me he or she is not interested in learning English.

I spoke to another coworker and my supervisor about this situation, and told them my plan.  I’m going to start walking around the cubicles while the Latinos are being interviewed to make sure no one needs help with translation or is feeling uncomfortable.  My being around will make the Latino population more at ease and help eliminate the fear the volunteers have of not being able to communicate.  I believe that fear is one of the main reasons for this inhospitable environment.  My coworkers liked the idea and plan to do the same.

When injustice is happening around you, it’s possible to make a difference–even as a student intern.  I learned that it’s important to speak up.  Next time I hear someone speaking negatively about another culture, I plan to respectfully inform them about the struggles of others.  Besides, we should always love our neighbor!

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About Kim Swanson

Hello! I'm Kim. I'm a first year, full-time student at the School of Social Work, and I'm loving it! Classes are small, professors are very approachable, and my classmates have been super friendly. I just moved back to North Carolina from Texas after a year working as a family case manager at a shelter for immigrants through AmeriCorps. Being back in NC is great (I'm sipping Cheerwine as I type!), but being in Austin opened my eyes to the struggles of immigrant families. I learned how necessary community organizing and education are in order to ensure positive experiences for both U.S. born individuals and our new community members and am excited to be placed at the Centro para Familias Hispanas in Raleigh for my field experience. Please let me know if you have any questions. I'm more than happy to help out!
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