First-Hand Learning - the Day Workers Center of Mountain View
Social justice and immigration are common topics of learning and discussion at Notre Dame, interwoven throughout the curriculum. For Bayard Nielson's advanced Spanish classes, the realities of immigration and the challenges facing a population far from home and the support of family and friends, became very real recently as they spent time with some of the men and women from the Day Workers Center in Mountain View.
By Snigdha Banda and Camille Goldman
The months of January and February were certainly an exciting time for students in advanced Spanish classes who had the pleasure of meeting the workers of the Day Worker Center of Mountain View. The Day Worker Center, founded in 1996, supports immigrants, mostly from Latin American countries, by helping them find employment, providing English classes, computer classes, and job skills training, and addressing health care needs.
During the last week of January, three day workers from the center -José, Obdulia, Teresa- and the executive director- María- all came to Notre Dame to share their stories and enlighten the girls about immigrants living in the United States. José, born and raised in Mexico, came to the United States seeking a better lifestyle. He says, "We were told that money could be swept off the streets in America." He has spent twenty-five years in the United States, building fences and painting houses. Obdulia and Teresa also came to the United States for financial reasons, and although life is difficult here for them, they prefer it to their homeland where there are other problems including high crime rates, corruption, and poor education systems. María, who initially came to the United States as an undocumented immigrant herself, landed a job as a house cleaner and struggled to learn English and assimilate. Her hard work eventually paid off, and now she serves as the executive director of the center, helping those in situations similar to her own.
In February students travelled to the Day Worker Center and met the workers. The students listened intently to the workers' stories and enjoyed a delicious lunch of tamales. Most of the workers were in situations similar to José's, Obdulia's, Teresa's, and María's, all under financial stresses hoping to come to the United States and begin a new life. However, in this journey, they are forced to leave their families behind. Although making a living in America is hard for them, with the center's help they find work and send money back to their families. They hope that one day their dreams can come true and their families can join them in the United States.
Notre Dame girls utilized their Spanish-speaking abilities to learn about a community of people needing support and help. A few have even begun volunteering at the center to teach the immigrants English and help them find better jobs.