La Paz de Dios is the trusted guide for the Latino community in Chattanooga. Bridging the diverse Latino community to local and regional community resources, La Paz also provides service organizations a network in the Chattanooga community for those seeking to serve Latinos and learn how to better access and gain the trust of that population. Since its formation in 2004, La Paz has sought to identify and address the social and humanitarian needs of the immigrant Latino community, locate and foster relationships with trusted organizations that can serve them, and provide the community with the confidence, capability, and education to become self-sufficient and resourceful. The mission of La Paz is to enable individuals to become more engaged community members to create a healthy, culturally inclusive Chattanooga.
Here is the story of one of those individuals, Adriana Pascual, former La Paz intern and volunteer.
Initially Adriana came to La Paz as an intern through the Career Center but decided to continue her work at La Paz, even without payment, because she “liked being involved in the Latino community and helping people.” Since December 2008, she has been volunteering about 15 hour a week for La Paz. At age 18, she has 2 children (3 yrs and 3 months) and is trilingual in Spanish, English, and Kanjobal, a Guatemalan dialect.
She has taken ownership here at La Paz and made this work, this cause her own. Assisting Melody Bonilla, our Operations/Client Care Coordinator, she personally sees an estimated 10 clients weekly. Adriana brings to La Paz a myriad of linguistic, life and cultural experiences, from which La Paz enormously benefits. “Through Adriana’s work here,” said Melody, whose parents were born in Puerto Rico, “I personally have gained an insight into the Guatemalan culture, including their lingo, certain behaviors and social expectations, all of which had been barriers between me and the clients.” According to Melody, Adriana’s background allows the La Paz clients to identify immediately with her, which is something that cannot be taught or trained.
Essentially, Adriana is an emerging leader in this city and represents the very essence of La Paz’s mission to empower members of the Latino community toward a self-sufficiency and resourcefulness that leaks over into service to their own community. Life had long-ago handed her the role of wife and mother; however, through her experiences at La Paz, she now aspires to be more – to seek a professional career for herself as a young woman. She is planning on enrolling at Chattanooga State Technical Community College in the fall of 2010.
As seen in Adriana’s case, the Latino community in Chattanooga represents an untapped wealth of talent and potential yet to be discovered fully. Adriana’s story is a testament to the changing ways of a culture once dominated solely by men, as well as proof that with proper training and opportunity, individuals otherwise trapped by tradition and expectation can indeed break the mold.
By Laurie Cook Stevens