Category Archives: Personal Stories

Clemencia Robles and Aida Benitez’s Story

Clemencia Robles and Aida Benitez are members of our community. We asked them to tell their Casa Latina Story.

Clemencia Robles and Aida Benitez’s Casa Latina Story

by Johanna Walter as told by Clemencia Robles and Aida Benitez

Casa Latina has helped the Latino community find their way in Hampshire County by providing them with medical assistance and medical interpretation. Two of the many people Casa has helped are Ms. Clemencia Robles and Aida Benitez.

Ms. Robles came from Puerto Rico to Northampton in 2001 and she says that Casa Latina is the best thing that could have ever happened to her. She learned about Casa from her neighbors in the building she lived and says Casa Latina has been a part of her life ever since.

Ms. Robles is very thankful for the medical interpretation services she received through Casa and she says that this allowed her to finally be able to make decisions with her doctor on the treatments she needed. When Ms. Robles had open heart surgery, she says the staff at Casa Latina were there for her offering their support in every step of her recovery.

Ms. Benitez is also very thankful to Casa Latina for the help she received with filling out applications, securing transportation to and from her medical appointments, and getting a medical interpreter to be with her during her doctor consults. Ms. Benitez says she could not have made a life in this country without the help and support of Casa Latina and she is eternally grateful for the support they have always offered her

Roxana Paredes’s Story

Roxana Paredes is member of our community. We asked her to tell her Casa Latina Story.

Roxana Paredes‘s Casa Latina Story

by Johanna Walter as told by Roxana Paredes

Roxana Paredes came from San Salvador to Western Massachusetts in 2002. One of the main reasons she came to the U.S. was because she needed medical assistance and her hopes were to find the help she needed.  However, obtaining medical care proved to be difficult because she didn’t know how to navigate the health care system and did not speak English.

Ms. Paredes learned about Casa Latina from a friend who told her Casa would be able to help her, so without anything to lose, Ms. Paredes went to Casa Latina where she met Lillian Torres, and Eneida Garcia. Ms. Paredes admits she was a bit reluctant to ask for help but that Lillian and Eneida were so welcoming and kind that she soon felt comfortable to talk to them about her needs. Ms. Paredes adds that Casa Latina has always been there for her and that as she met people in the community and made friends, she would make it a point to tell all Latinos about Casa and the support they offer without hesitation.

Gloria Vicente’s Story

Gloria Vicente is member of our community. We asked her to tell her Casa Latina Story.

Gloria Vicente’s Casa Latina Story

by Johanna Walter as told by Gloria Vicente

Gloria Vicente came from Puerto Rico to Northampton in 1995 with her two children in hopes of starting a new life. When she first arrived to this country she stayed with her brother but dreamed of getting her own place for her and her family. She learned about Casa from her brother who told her Casa Latina assisted the Latino community with pretty much everything they needed.

Ms. Vicente decided to reach out to Casa for assistance in filling out different applications to secure an apartment and she says Casa Latina welcomed her and her children with open arms. Ms. Vicente states that the staff at Casa were friendly, efficient, and patient.

Casa Latina also made her aware of the medical assistance she and her family could receive and helped her navigate the system to ensure she and her children received what they needed. One of the services Ms. Vicente was very thankful and appreciative of was the medical interpretation service Casa offered. Ms. Vicente explains that without speaking English she was unable to get the proper medical care she needed but that once the staff at Casa Latina got her a medical interpreter, she felt she was once again in control of her own health care and could have a say in what happened to her.

Through the years and through very hard times, Ms. Vicente talks about how Casa Latina was there for her. One of the very difficult times Ms. Vicente recalls is when she lost her two children a few years ago and she remembers how Casa Latina was there for her supporting her and helping her get through the pain of losing her children.

These days Ms. Vicente likes to give back to Casa Latina by helping with the different events they put together for the community. When asked about what she would have done if Casa Latina wasn’t around to help her, Ms. Vicente says she would have had to go back to Puerto Rico without a chance to better her circumstances. Ms. Vicente is very thankful Casa has been there for her and added that she cannot imagine her life without Casa Latina.

Diana Soler’s Casa Latina Story

Diana Soler is a current board member of Casa Latina. We asked her to tell us her Casa Latina story.

My Casa Latina Story

by Diana Soler

Love God, love my life, love my kids, love my Community. “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” by Mahatma Gandhi.

I moved to Northampton in 2011 with my daughters, Camila Guerrero and Melissa Lisboa. We were homeless for a year. In 2012, we relocated to a Hampshire Heights housing apartment. I found housing, friends, agencies that supported us, but something was still missing in our life. One day a person knocked on our door. I was hesitant to open the door because I felt isolated, and I did not speak English well. It was an outreach worker from Casa Latina who spoke to me in Spanish and wanted to invite me to a community meeting. At the time I was an ESL student at Holyoke Community College.

I decided to attend to the meeting with my daughters. I found a safe space with childcare for my daughters. It was a workshop about how to start an association in my housing complex. I learned more about my rights as a tenant, community involvement and Casa Latina services. After that, I was connected to Casa Latina. I found a community of people that share the same struggles. Thru the years, I was invited to participate in different programs that Casa Latina offered like the Women’s Financial Literacy program, the Three Kings Day celebration; I also accepted invitations to participate in community organization like Families with Power and the Northampton Council on Aging, etc.

The missing part in our lives was community participation. My daughters and I are proactive members in our community. I started volunteering at Casa Latina in 2014, I did work study through HCC and worked as an outreach worker for MassHealth; in the present, I am an active board member for Casa Latina. I work for Community Action as a Head Start Enrollment counselor for Hampshire County. I am a volunteer for Free Tax assistance program; I am an active member of Families with Power. Camila participates at the YMCA youth group. We are not longer strangers in our community.

Luz Eneida Garcia’s Casa Latina Story

Luz Eneida Garcia is a Casa Latina Board Member and former co-Director. We asked her to tell her Casa Latina Story.

My Casa Latina Story

by Luz Eneida Garcia

I came from Puerto Rico to Northampton on September 23, 1993 with my son Freddy and $500.00 in my bag to start a new life for both of us. One of my childhood friends had told me that Northampton was a nice place to live and also that Massachusetts had great support for families with children with special care needs. My son, Freddie, has moderate to severe cerebral palsy so we definitely needed services.

Soon after I came to Northampton, I started to access services from the system: Department of Transitional Assistance, MassHealth, Department of Public Health, Department of Developmental Services (previously, the Department of Mental Retardation), Housing Authority, Fuel Assistance, free English classes, among others. During this time, I was busy studying and taking care of Freddie. Trying to understand services and adjust to a new culture while unable to speak English was very stressful for me, especially without the support of my family.

Not until six years later, when the outreach worker from Casa Latina knocked on my apartment door, did I learn about Casa’s services. I attended an educational program about Latino women heroes. The outreach worker was very excited about the program and encouraged me to participate. At that time I had my older son with special care needs as well as two other boys, three years old and two months old. I had graduated from Holyoke Community College and been accepted by Smith College. I was depressed because I had just ended my relationship with the father of my two younger children, and I was overwhelmed by child care demands, especially for my disabled son. Also, my dream was to continue studying early child hood education; I felt it was a better choice than business administration, which I had studied in Puerto Rico, to allow me to work full time and take care of my three children.

I informed the outreach worker that my participation in the community education program was impossible, given my other responsibilities. How could I attend every Wednesday, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm for 12 weeks? They offered child care, transportation, and snacks, but for me it just seemed out of the question. She told me to think about it and call her if I decided to go; I thought “no way Jose.” But, she came back and knocked on the door again. The second time, she was even more enthusiastic about my participation. She repeated the same information, but, this time, she insisted that attending would help me get connected with other people from the Latino community, particularly other Latino women. She also said that I also would learn more about services and support for my family. She convinced me.

Once I went to the first meeting, I confirmed what the outreach worker was talking about. Yes, it was a great opportunity to learn about the Latino women heroes, but, for me more than anything, it was the opportunity to connect with the Latino families that I missed and needed so much. The people that were there could understand my culture, and that was very significant for me. I recognized that I was isolated and completely disconnected from the community where I lived. Attending Casa Latina’s community educational program changed my life.

For 15 years, I went to all the community educational programs that Casa presented. I was invited to be a member of Casa’s Board. It was my first such experience. They mentored me and supported me with child care. I learned about the organization and about the community. I became a Co-President of the Board, and then I became the Co-Director for Administration of the program. I always had very strong support from the members of the Board and the staff, but more than anything, I received support from the people of the community that I have always loved. I have always felt accepted in Northampton, as in Puerto Rico, not only by my Latino community but by the larger community where I live.

With everything that I leaned through the years that I was a participant in the programs, a member of the Board and the Co-Director for Administration of Casa Latina, I was able to grow in so many different ways. Today, I have my own house which I could buy thanks to the support of Community Action and the Northampton Housing Authority; I have a great job as a care coordinator of the Care Coordination Program of the Department of Public Health; and I have a happy family which is part of this beautiful community where we live.

Without the opportunity that the outreach worker from Casa Latina, Inc. gave me when she came back to knock on my door and insisted on the importance of making connections and becoming educated, this story might have had a different end. The truth is that I could not be happier that it was the way it was. Also, I share this happiness with other people of the community that have had similar experiences; it’s what gives me a real sense of community, where everyone can have the same opportunity to educate, connect, and grow. I thank Casa Latina, Inc. for its commitment to our Latino community.