A year ago I made a decision that would change my life completely. A decision that I do not regret, but that was risky.
I studied all my life at La Salle of Paterna in Valencia, Spain. It is there that I remember spending the happiest years of my life. My parents are teachers and I grew up volunteering, attending summer camps, and participating in catechesis. Joining Lasallian Volunteers was an opportunity for me to go one step further. It meant leaving my life in Spain to continue my Lasallian vocation on the other side of the ocean, in a country with a different language and culture. I knew this would be a challenge for me.
This decision, as crazy as it is brave, is changing my life and my perception completely. Now I live in Bronx, New York, in the Lasallian Community at Bedford Park, along with four Brothers and three Lasallian Volunteers. My great American family. Life here is better than I imagined; life in community with Brothers and volunteers is endearing. The routines with our daily prayers and our community dinners, as well as weekend plans outside the home. Especially in my case, I believe that living in a community is special, since I am far from my home and I miss my family. That is why living in community makes me feel more nurtured and cared for.
My work here is very different from what I had done in previous volunteer programs. I’m working at POTS, Part of the Solution, a multiservice agency in the Bronx. This center is a source of help for hundreds of neighborhood residents who attend the different services daily: community dining room, food pantry, mail, haircuts, legal services, immigration services, employment department, etc. I provide intake support for clients seeking access to POTS programs. I also assist clients in obtaining and maintaining cash and non-cash benefits such as Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), Women, Infants and Children (WIC), Medicaid, Lifeline (phones), Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption (SCRIE) and Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE). In addition, I help clients navigate access to various forms of temporary and permanent housing including supportive housing applications, nursing home applications and low-income housing applications.We work with families as they move from crisis to stability and, ultimately, self-sufficiency.
Sometimes I feel a lot of responsibility because I am the first contact that the clients have with the organization. I conduct intake interviews where I collect demographic information and speak with them about their life. For that reason, I try to show that we have to treat everyone with empathy, respect, listening and affection because we all have stories to tell and not always all voices are heard. During this process, it is very rewarding to see how we help families. I have never before had a job that made me feel so proud and spiritually fulfilled.
All this developed with the best coworkers, who help me and teach me every day and make me feel proud to contribute to POTS mission. I have only been here four months and I’m excited to see what the rest of the year holds for me. I will continue living with my wonderful Lasallian community and continue helping the neighbors and families of the Bronx along with my POTS team. Let’s keep going!
Daniel Martinez attended La Salle of Paterna in Valencia, Spain.