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Hispanic Organization Helps Newcomers

By Tiffany Powell

16 November 2003
Copyright ©2003
Bell & Howell Information and Learning Company. All rights reserved.

Last Sunday, Verbo Church in Kenner offered a community service fair to encourage members to volunteer in local charitable organizations.

"The purpose of God is that everybody serves using the gift that they have. We owe God," Kenner resident Manuel Torres, 17, said. He is a member of Verbo Church.

One of the organizations represented was the 2-year-old Fundacion Ayuda al Inmigrante. In English, this means Help the Immigrant Foundation.

This organization began when founders Aida Lopez and Rosa Reyes, inspired by their church's message of helping others, wanted to reach out to the growing population of immigrants who live in Kenner.

They said it is often difficult for new immigrants to get the help they need without the proper support. The language barrier prevents non-English-speaking individuals from discovering programs that can help sometimes.

"This country is a blessing but there is no help if you don't know that help exists," Lopez said.

Reyes and Lopez know this from experience.

Reyes, who has been living in Kenner for 2 years, is from Puerto Rico. Though she is a U.S. citizen, when she came here she didn't know the language, which made it difficult for even simple things like getting a driver's license.

Lopez has been living in Kenner for 15 years. In her native El Salvador, she was a teacher with a master's degree in special education. Though she was a professional in her country, she came to the United States as a widow with four children and had to start over alone. She said she felt frustrated not being to help her children in school.

But, with the help of family, hard work and determination, Lopez and Reyes moved ahead and became successful. Now, they are extending a helping hand to others making the transition to a new life in this country.

With this is mind, Ayuda al Inmigrante works hard to help people gain access to information and services. Their motto is: "La fundacion hecha por hispanos para hispanos," meaning the foundation is made by Hispanics for Hispanics.

The organization helps with health, legal, education and employment concerns and offers emergency help for families. It also connects employees with potential employers and links persons to English classes and translation services for important documents such as legal notices and doctors' letters.

The duo said they also help resolve literacy issues by teaching immigrants to write and read Spanish and encourage parents to get involved with the school system.

Much of the work is as a referral agency for the new immigrant community, providing research and collecting information from places like the Social Security office. Assistance from Ayuda al Inmigrante is open to anyone from any background and religious beliefs. Its purpose is to make a better city, state, and country for all citizens.

Presently, the organization has about 27 volunteers in different areas. To raise money, it holds fund-raisers such as garage sales. Donations of clothing, office supplies or volunteer time is always welcomed.

Fundacion Ayuda al Inmigrante's office is at 4215 Williams Boulevard and is open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Call 469-6996 or 1 (866) 469-6996.

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