I never meant to move to America. I came here on an internship in the hospitality industry with every intention of returning to Peru to work in tourism. But it was here that I found love, married my husband and brought two wonderful boys, now 12 and 7, into the world.
When I resettled here as an immigrant I was warmly welcomed and helped by many people. Now I work with immigrants and refugees from around the globe every day, using the same kindness to help them settle in and thrive here.
I work with Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of Louisville, where we help immigrants and refugees with their unique legal needs, like gaining work authorization, pursuing U.S. citizenship and being reunited with family members they had to leave in their home countries for many different reasons.
We work on about 2,700 cases each year, opening on average 1,000 new ones and continuing to work on previous ones. Most cases take two to five years to resolve. Seventy-three percent of the people we serve are below the poverty line and qualify for low-cost and even no-cost help from us, paid for by grants and donations.
The most rewarding thing about our work is helping people. Many of our clients fled their home country to the safety of a refugee camp in a foreign land, where they lived in horrible circumstances for eight, 12, even 20 years. They come here, many times with nothing, and often don’t even know how to send us an email or text.
When I hear my clients’ stories and see how they manage to make a life with what they have — and they do not have much — I learn to value what I have and to appreciate my blessings.
One of my favorite things about our work is grateful clients. Once, I was at Walmart and had a family of refugees run over to hug me. Another time, I successfully petitioned to have a family reunited, and my client brought in the family member to meet me and share their joy. It made me feel like I am doing a good job. And doing a good job is important not just for me but because it actually changes lives.
One of my clients came to America to build a better life here so she could send money home to her children until she could bring them here. In Louisville, however, she experienced domestic violence, which is what brought her to us. In addition to helping her address that situation, we successfully filed to have her children join her in America. I wish you could have seen their happy faces. “Because of you,” she kept saying to me with gratitude.
Another woman from Liberia wanted more than anything in this world to become a U.S. citizen but just could not pass the civics exam, which includes 100 questions. Test takers have to write out the answers (it’s not multiple choice) in English. We worked with her and then connected her with a volunteer who helped her prepare. When she finally passed and we filed for her citizenship, all of us were jumping up and down and hugging. It was a great day when her perseverance paid off.
I work with people who often have seen what is worst about our world, and yet they help me to see the best in people. Our clients are strong yet vulnerable, resilient and determined. They teach me their ideas, to value what I have and to be grateful.
Among other things, I am grateful for them.
Zoila Davis is an accredited representative with Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of Louisville.
Hermosa, conmovedora, emocionante y reflexiva historia de amor al Prójimo, realmente es gratificante recibir gratitud y reconocimiento de las personas agraciadas y beneficiadas con la ciudadanía Dios te bendiga abundantemente por tu generosidad y dedicación en tu vida Querida Zoila Mariella, gracias gracias a Dios
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