Author: MariaFernanda Cuevas
My name is MariaFernanda Cuevas and I currently serve in the Associated Students of Holy Names University board as Campaign and Outreach Coordinator, I work in Marketing for Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement as well as the ESL Administrator for the Oakland Catholic Worker.
I want to tell you a little about my work at the Oakland Catholic Worker, which is where my passion lies. I first learned about the Oakland Catholic Worker (OCW) in 2011. This was my first year at Holy Names University and I was very intrigued and excited to be able to help the Oakland neighborhood. I love social justice as a big part of the community here at HNU I volunteered on and off after that, until this last summer in 2014. It was then that I was given the opportunity to work for them along with the Center for Social Justice and Civic Engagement on campus.
If someone would have told me then what I would be doing now I would never believe them. This last summer was filled with tremendous experience that I will forever keep in my lifetime. First off I was sent to Sacramento, our State Capitol to lobby! I had never in my life ever done this, and there I was standing before our state building, charging with courage and learning as I went. I was there, not only as a citizen, but as a Latina, to represent the OCW. The main laws that I remember speaking about was the reduction of fees in the one phone call that detained immigrants are able to make; another included an extension for Healthcare for All that should include immigrant families. We split up into groups and among our groups we were each allowed to speak to the government official, about our feelings on these kinds of issues and what we proposed to change them. Some seemed very complacent and said that they would definitely add it to their agenda. Others weren’t very thrilled to have us there, much less to hear about the laws that we were proposing. This really angered me, I was very glad to have the opportunity to be there and have them listen to us, but this anger made me want to do something.
“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.
Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”
The state of California, particular the Bay where I live, is filled with resources and many laws that protect the immigrant in a range of ways. I think that is incredible and I hope to be able to see some of these laws go nationwide. My main goal since that summer has been to educate people. I am now the head of the ESL program that the OCW provides and besides teaching these Latinos English, I try to bring in speakers from all kinds different immigrant resources in the Bay Area. I am a firm believer that knowledge is power, and that this knowledge will someday, help them advocate for themselves. When they believe in themselves and speak out they automatically give the same power to others. In this time of great plea for the rights of immigrants and humans alike, I no longer want to advocate for them by being their voice; I want to join their voice and ask for our rights together.
Other than lobbying for the weekend, there are many things that I took over and helped with many of the programs that are hosted in the house. Midway through the summer I had participated in most if not all of these events. Some of the programs include serving hot meals to those in need form about 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM. Then there is the Thursday food distribution, which is a slightly different adventure every week. All in this entire journey has been filled with so many wonderful experiences and it has also filled me with hope. I have learned a lot about myself and I have learned a lot from my students as well. I expect to continue with this work and really do pray for the best for our families, for our community, for our state, our country, the best for our world.
*Oakland Catholic Worker
4848 International Blvd, Oakland, CA