I feel as if I am having déjà vu. It seems like just yesterday I was volunteering at Provena Covenant Hospital and writing blog posts about the experiences I was having translating documents and working with the inspiring Alejandra. I am sad to say that it was not just yesterday, but instead an entire year has passed and now I am experiencing something completely different. My experience with Provena and Spanish 232 was a wonderful one. The things that I learned and the unique community learning aspect of the course inspired me to take Spanish 332 this semester, “Spanish and Entrepreneurship”. I will admit that I found the title of the course to be slightly intimidating as I have, or at least believed prior to the course, no previous entrepreneurial experience. I have quickly realized that the class does not require explicit entrepreneurial under-takings, but an application of the skills one has already acquired through the new lens of social entrepreneurship.
Along-side the new class topic and focus are many of the same components that 232 had: 28 hours of community service, constant communication and discussion in class, the wonderful Anne Abbott as our leader, and discussion of global and local news that relate to the course. In search of a completely new community experience, I decided to choose a different community partner to volunteer with this semester. After reading all of the information and talking about several community partners in class, I decided on Vida Alegre, a program in association with the UIUC School of Social Work. The program is a study being conducted by several graduate students and provides Cognitive Behavioral Group Therapy to treat depression among Latina mothers in the community. I was drawn to this program because it is addressing the mental health care disparities that exist between non-English speaking immigrants and people in the U.S. who can speak English. I feel that mental health should be an area of increased research, funding and focus, and therefore really appreciate the work that Dr. Lissette Piedra, the professor leading the study, and her students are doing.
My role at Vida Alegre this semester is mainly as a caretaker or babysitter of the study participants’ children while they are with the graduate students for a couple hours every week. This is not what I initially anticipated as I am really interested in improving my Spanish-speaking skills and some of the children speak English, but it has turned out to be a really wonderful experience. I go for two hours every Wednesday evening and watch two little girls with a few other volunteers. They both speak only Spanish and are full of more energy that I thought was possible. It has been fun speaking to them in Spanish as we are learning a lot of new vocabulary as well as the importance of pronunciation. The photograph above is the disaster-zone that is the playroom after our time with the kids. They really enjoy the puzzles and blow-up ball pen which has been both “una piscina” (a pool) and “una casa” (a house) according to one of the children in the last few weeks.
I am really looking forward to the remainder of the semester in Spanish 332 and with Vida Alegre. I will also begin transcribing and translating a focus group recording from the last research session in the next few weeks. I am both excited and nervous by this because I know it will be a challenge and time-consuming, but also a great way to improve my Spanish comprehension skills.