Volunteer Feature: Aric Barnes

 

I learned about Fe y Justicia from a visit they made to my Alternative Spring Break group at Rice University.  My group traveled to the Rio Grande Valley for a week of service providing educational, housing, and social services and support to immigrant communities.  After we returned and I began to plan my summer,  I wanted to continue the same type of work we did in the Valley.  Volunteering at the Worker Center has since then been a perfect opportunity for me to continue learning about issues that affect workers and immigrants while developing skills and gaining experience that I look forward to applying to my future studies and experiences.

I primarily helped during the summer as part of the Workplace Justice Program.  Although I am only a sophomore undergraduate, the staff and my fellow volunteers were always keen and happy to help me with my many questions, whether they were about workplace rights or Spanish expressions.  

While I enjoyed my time spent in the Center learning about the issues workers face and the resources the center provides to help them, my favorite moments during the summer were those spent in the community, face-to-face with workers, leaders, students, and friends.  Hearing others' stories and helping them learn about their own resources and power to advocate for change and achieve their goals have been my motivation throughout the summer.  In this way, everyone who comes to the worker center directly advances its mission of providing a safe space for workers and their families to learn about their rights and organize themselves to improve conditions for them on the job.

I think the greatest thing I have learned from my time at Fe y Justicia is the power of values in achieving goals.  I have seen both myself and others learn and grow alongside each other this summer in ways I could have never imagined.  This growth came from being pushed out of our comfort zones.  As a linguistics and cognitive sciences student, I have to say my favorite memory from this summer was helping translate and interpret at Rice University's Urban Immersion program.  There was something very special about helping two groups of people communicate who otherwise would not have been able to speak to one another.  That experience presented challenges to all involved, myself included.  Our own values--honoring each other's voices and the work of the center--drove us to help others and work towards our goal--to communicate with each other.  This realization is what keeps me motivated in my advocacy for worker, immigrant, and human rights no matter where I am, but I know that I will always be able to return to my family at Fe y Justicia to help continue the very special work it does in Houston.

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