Why we come to work every day...May 17, 2012
Hope is defined as “the feeling that events will turn out for the best”. At Ayuda, we are very familiar with this concept. Dozens of individuals come through our doors each week desperately seeking hope. They want to know that the sufferings they have endured will ultimately turn out for the best. For them, this means a safe life that is free from abuse and exploitation, with stable and just employment, and the opportunity to lead a fulfilling and successful life in our country.
Gabriel (not real name) is one of those persons that came to Ayuda in search of hope. After suffering a lifetime of discrimination and abuse based on his sexual orientation, Gabriel left his native Guatemala in search of safety and the opportunity to achieve his dreams in the U.S. However, his dreams turned into nightmares. The family members he sought support and guidance from promptly turned their backs on Gabriel. They kicked him out of his house and forced him to live in the streets for one simple reason: he was gay. Eventually, after much struggle, Gabriel got back on his feet and found a support network with local organizations that serve the LGBT community. Through these channels, Gabriel learned that, because of his sexual orientation and history of suffered abuse, he could qualify for permanent asylum in the U.S. Fearing deportation to a country where he faced further abuse, Gabriel began seeking legal representation that would help his life turn out for the best.
Unfortunately for Gabriel, and many asylum seekers like him, he was unaware of the many complexities of our immigration system. His search for help was making him lose hope: he went to 2 legal aid organizations, who told him that it would be very difficult for him to seek and obtain asylum. They tried to find a volunteer attorney that could take the case, but were not able to find one that would represent him.
These setbacks did not deter Gabriel, and his search for legal help eventually led him to Ayuda. After carefully considering the difficulties posed by his case, Ayuda’s legal team decided nevertheless to represent him. Our staff worked with Gabriel for 9 months to prepare his asylum application and equip him with the support necessary to present his case before the USCIS Asylum Office. A particular challenge was finding mental health counseling that would help him cope with the fear and anxiety posed by having to describe a lifetime of suffering unspeakable abuses during his asylum interview. Despite having suffered severe neglect and abuse since he was 4 years-old, Gabriel had never had access to trauma counseling. Ayuda not only provided him with legal orientation, but found him free mental health support necessary to prepare him to tell his story to authorities. Eventually, just last month, our hard work and Gabriel’s persistence proved successful. Gabriel’s petition for asylum was granted!
A short while after receiving the good news, Gabriel wrote an email to his attorney, Ms. Cori Alonso-Marsden, titled “Mil, mil gracias a Ayuda” (A thousand, thousand thanks to Ayuda). His email reads in part:
To write in just a few lines to express how grateful I am will be a difficult task – it would look more like the Bible once I was done expressing how happy and excited I am; not only for the victory at the Asylum Office – although that was my goal – but what has been even more important to me is the growth that I achieved as a person.
[My lawyer is] the only person in the world who knows me so well - my past, my joy, my sadness, my fears, my abilities, my strengths; all the bad and all the good. By being professional and always concerned with my emotional state, [you] went above and beyond in a good sense and worried about my emotional state, always watching that I wouldn’t be too affected. You helped me find an organization that helped me with my nightmares, my fears and everything else. […]
I will not forget the law clerk that was with you, when you see her, please thank her for all the help she be provided […], I thank her from the bottom of my heart, with that patience and sweetness that describes you, we overcame many obstacles.
Among the many other things that I would like to mention is that now I consider myself a spokesperson for what is just and real about my experience and for the work that Ayuda does and provides. Many persons […]told me that Ayuda didn’t help and that it had limitations, but it is difficult for a community like ours, who is in such need of help, to understand that an organization may not be able to help everyone even when it wants to. And why is this? It’s due to issues of capacity and funding […]. For this reason, I declare myself to be an Ayuda spokesperson, I understand the process needed to help, […]
Above all, I admire everything you do and I can say that the staff with whom I had direct contact and those who I observed with other clients are of the same quality. […]
Thanks to the receptionist who, whenever I arrived, would always greet me with “Hi, Gabriel.” I would ask myself, ‘”could it be that she’s like that with everyone or just because I come here so much?” Whatever the reason, the personal touch makes you feel comfortable, important, and you can feel the commitment of the organization.
I will write the following in upper case because I want to emphasize this about my experience in Ayuda: I NEVER FELT I WAS DISCRIMINATED AGAINST BECAUSE OF MY SEXUAL ORIENTATION. With time, I even began to forget to hide my sexuality as I had been accustomed to do in my country. I never felt I needed to hide at Ayuda. Thank you for not treating me differently. Asylum may appear to some to just be an immigration legal process, but for me and others in similar situations, it means being treated as an equal, as a human being, and not as the “weirdo” I had always been told that I was. Thank you a thousand times for your help. I will never forget you.
Let’s keep fighting,
At Ayuda, we come to work every day because we believe that everyone is equal. Through our work, we aspire to bring equality, opportunity and relief to those that pass through our doors. Through your support, we were able to make Gabriel feel that he was our equal, and in his words, a human. For some, this might be one case with a successful outcome. For our team, and Gabriel, it is the reason Ayuda has carried out its mission for the past 39 years: for the chance to ensure that, for our clients, their lives and connected events will turn out for the best.
Unfortunately, as Gabriel stated, we are limited to bring hope to all because of lack of capacity and funding. We thank you because your investment helped make hope a reality for Gabriel. However, he is not alone in his desperate search for hope. Your support today will permit us to continue changing lives and giving our clients the opportunity to have their lives turn for the better.< Back