"If I'm in my home, I am depressed. I don't have anything to do. When I come here, I converse with people, I have responsibilities." That's Rebeca Sanchez, a Peruvian volunteer at the Falls Church offices of the Hispanic Committee of Virginia (www.hcva.org). The cheerful 85-year-old goes on, speaking her native Spanish through a translator: "I've never volunteered before. This is my first time."
Sitting at the information and referral desk, Sanchez is the first person clients meet when they walk into the committee offices. She listens to their problems and then explains services and programs that can help them with health issues, school, the details of immigration. When no one's at the door, she's probably on the phone, calling 60 to 80 clients each month to follow up on their progress in procuring employment.
Sanchez moved to the United States in 1991, brought from Peru by her daughter, who had married a U.S. citizen. But it's only in the past year and a half that she has been involved with the committee, which she has found to be revitalizing. She particularly likes putting together the brochures and information packets to be distributed to the public. "I feel very good to be able to give part of my time, part of what I have, to the committee and to make friends."
Where does she think the greatest need is in the Hispanic community? "The community needs any help. We need volunteers for youth education, education for the community. We also need a lot of help with immigration, because many people need to resolve their problems." Sanchez says she plans to continue her work. "I enjoy being here. I learn a lot from being here, and I wouldn't ever want to leave."
Echoing the sentiment that giving to others often results in giving to oneself, Sanchez adds, "I could say that being at the Hispanic Committee has been like a kind of therapy for me."
-- Andrea Caumont