Share the journey – Bridges that welcome us home

I’ve been with Catholic Charities for just over a year. As a lifelong Louisville Catholic, I’m ashamed to say that prior to joining the agency, I had little knowledge of the agency’s vast and varied efforts to provide help and create hope.

Since becoming director of language services at Catholic Charities of Louisville, however, I’ve learned a great deal about the many ways the agency strives to share the journey with those we serve. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with countless people, parishes, businesses and organizations in the Louisville area to build bridges through communication, empowering individuals and the community at large.

The ability to communicate is something most of us take for granted, yet for many immigrants and refugees, the inability to speak or understand English can cause fear and isolation. We are called to be of service to one another, but language barriers can make it difficult to answer that call. That is why language services strives to identify and train bilingual individuals — many of whom are Catholic Charities’ clients — to become interpreters.

Working as a professional interpreter furnishes a person with meaningful employment and the ability to serve their own communities with reliable language assistance. I recently had the privilege of working with one such individual who has benefitted tremendously from this empowering opportunity.

Nwamwami Muhoza arrived in the U.S. with her family in January of 2013 at the age of 19. They had fled the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a country plagued by violence. She spoke very little English, but in just a short time, with the help of Job Corps, English as a Second Language classes and daily exposure to the language, she quickly learned English.

Just a few months ago, while meeting with the Catholic Charities’ immigration and legal services team, Muhoza learned that job opportunities were available for her in our language services program.

Muhoza underwent all of the required training, and now she enjoys a flexible schedule, competitive wages, and the ability to provide aid to those in her community who still struggle with English. Because of the assistance Muhoza received through Catholic Charities, she has chosen to continue to give back to the community by pursuing a career in social services as she and her husband eagerly await the arrival of their first child.

The path to resettlement in the United States is long and difficult for many families. Language assistance provides dignity and peace of mind for everyone involved. It enables us to build the bridges that link our communities and hearts, and makes everyone feel welcome in our Kentucky home.

Alisa Pifine is the director of language services at Catholic Charities of Louisville.

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