Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This week I volunteered for the first time at Casa de Maryland, an organization to serve the needs of the ever growing immigrant population within the DC/Baltimore area. Although my previous service experience with the Latin American community is minimal, a few days of volunteering at the Hispanic Apostolate, I find that I am nonetheless drawn to working with the Hispanic population. This pull comes in part from the fact that my father was born in Costa Rica, and as a result I have family there still. Through visiting family Costa Rica and exploring El Salvador with my brother I have developed a deeper personal connection to Latin American culture and its people. I am ready to work concretely in a field I am passionate about; I approached Casa on Monday apprehensive yet eager.

Unfortunately, I did not deal directly with the people the Casa serves. At first I was frustrated by the seemingly trivial office tasks I was assigned: mapping out an area for people to canvas, organizing papers, stapling rubber bands to papers. As I sat in that immensely quiet office, my mind was free to reflect upon my task at hand and its purpose. Apparently the people that would be canvassing of the area I mapped out are day laborers whose cases on which the Casa is working. I needed to highlight the routes clearly, because they may not read English. The papers I organized and stapled to rubber bands were for those same workers to give out while canvassing. The office work was not insignificant, it was necessary.

The branch of the Casa that I volunteered at just opened within the past year. Currently they help the immigrants with legal work, by providing a case worker. This November, a day laborer work center will be opening as part of the building. On a tour of the Casa, they showed me the newly painted cement floors and the bare walls. Similar to the CIT “we see what you see” advertisements for small business loans, anyone standing in the barren garage could sense the anticipation of a dream soon to be achieved.

Though my weekly tasks remain unclear, I can’t help but feel part of a bigger movement. A movement to include those who are at present disregarded, discredited, and ignored. The work center will join workers with employers; employers who are held accountable for paying their workers fairly and on time. The work center will seek justice for those who would be unable to achieve it as individuals.

Jimmy Wales founded Wikipedia with the intention that the encyclopedia would “not favor the Ph.D. over the well-read fifteen-year-old”. American society has a tendency to write off immigrants, specifically Hispanic immigrants, because they have not necessarily been educated at American universities nor do they necessarily pursue typically ‘intellectual’ fields. That is not to say, however, that these people are not extremely knowledgeable about their own field, and much more. In the same way that Wikipedia grants equality to those who wish to submit or edit an entry, Casa de Maryland is working to grant equality to those who are at present written off by society at large.

The sonnet, “I, Being Born a Woman and Distressed”, satirically deals with the idea of how women should act, feel, and think. Throughout the piece Edna Millay makes the woman out to be thoughtless due to the repeated idea of the mind being distorted by the physical. The “treason of [her]… blood against [her]… brain”, and the “cloud[ing] of the mind” are all shown to be facetious in the revealing phrase “insufficient reason”. Society assumes the immigrants and Hispanics are meant to play a menial role in society, thereby disregarding their rationality as humans, just as Millay points out that women have been treated.

I am now not as apprehensive, but just as eager to continue volunteering at the Casa and in doing so experience first hand what I have previously learned about only theoretically.

No comments: