03 Emily Chavez 3 small

I was born in Sonoma and have lived here all my life. I’m now 18 years old. My parents emigrated here from Mexico. My dad came in the late 1980’s and my mom in the early 1990’s. My dad is now a US citizen and my mom has Permanent Resident status.

One summer, when I was about 14, I started volunteering at Vineyard Workers Services. That was before they became part of La Luz. Maricarmen, my aunt, who works at La Luz, intro- duced me to Vineyard Worker Services. I was eventually hired as a Youth Ambassador for their Parent’s Speak-up Campaign, which was a program that helped parents talk to their children about how to have a better relationship with their kids. I also was hired for their La Luz’s Proyecto Enlace survey program and I’m still working on that. We sent people out to survey the local vineyard workers and families in Sonoma Valley, asking about basic needs and what other programs they think are needed in the community.

La Luz helps so many people. There are people who think because they are not legal they have no rights. When they come in we explain to them that they do have rights, not the same as someone who is a citizen, but we help them understand that just because they don’t have papers doesn’t mean they don’t have legal rights. Without La Luz there would be many more people without jobs, more homeless people and many more people without food. Sometimes people come by to just talk.

I have met so many people through La Luz while helping with different events. I have gained a lot of experience and have also learned a lot about myself. I’ve learned that I’m passionate about helping people. I enjoy helping people and that’s why I got connected with The Seeds of Learn- ing, a non-profit organization in Sonoma that helps build schools in El Salvador. If I hadn’t come to La Luz I don’t think I would have had the same drive and passion to go to El Salvador. I don’t think I would have done that on my own if I hadn’t first had help from La Luz and my commu- nity here.

Before we could travel to El Salvador we first needed to raise the money. We needed $20,000. Through La Luz, we were able to fundraise part of the money. They provided us with a booth at its Cinco de Mayo Fiesta. That was our first big push. We also had bake sales, car washes and contacted the Kiwanis and Rotary clubs. Ten of my classmates and I raised the money in two months. My trip last year to El Salvador was the inspiration for my senior project. At school, I’m organizing a drive to collect school supplies and will take those supplies back to El Salvador to the school I helped build. I leave in March 2011.

La Luz is like a second family. The staff members are more than just your staff members,theyarealsoyourfriends. IfI’mhavingaproblemIknowIcanask them for advice. It’s more than just a place to work and I’m interacting with them as staff members and also as friends, like a family.

A lot of people come up to me and ask, “Why are you wanting to work for free?” I don’t think of it this way. I don’t think of if as working for free because I’m doing what I like to do which is to help people. 

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17560 Greger Street

Sonoma, CA 95476


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