My name is Siena Henson and I am rising Junior at UP. I am majoring in Sociology and Psychology with a minor in Spanish, and am currently interning at El Centro de la Raza (The Center for People of All Races) in Seattle. El Centro is a non-profit organization grounded in the LatinX community in Washington state, which focuses on unifying people of all backgrounds towards a common goal of eradicating oppression based on poverty, sexism, racism, sexual orientation, and discrimination of any kind. They are passionate about empowering and defending the human rights of all people, especially those in our most vulnerable communities, and work to educate others about the importance of justice, dignity and equity for all. I encourage you all to visit their website to receive a more eloquent description of their mission, vision and principles.
My position at this organization is a generous title; ‘Emergency Relief Program Intern’. What this basically entails is assisting my supervisor with tasks that need to get done throughout the day, specifically as it relates to the Plate Fund Organization we collaborate with. The Plate Fund is providing financial assistance to restaurant-industry workers who have lost their jobs due to COVID-19, and through the help of donations, they have been able to approve 10,500 applications and distribute $5.25 million to those hit hard by this pandemic. Many of the applicants who apply through El Centro de la Raza for the Plate Fund do not speak English, and therefore experience more difficulty than most when trying to apply for assistance. It’s an incredibly humbling experience to speak a language you aren’t very familiar with to a native speaker over the phone – something we as English speakers take for granted in our everyday lives. It is impossible for me to experience the difficulty of not speaking the native language in the country I call home, but I get a very small taste of it during my internship.
It’s a true loss that I cannot meet with our clientele in person – from what I have heard, El Centro is normally bustling with visitors, and is a hub for all people where they can feel welcome and safe. Every person I have worked with has been so wonderfully gracious and patient with my mediocre Spanish skills, and I hope to meet some of them in person someday. I am very fortunate to be working with El Centro de la Raza during this incredibly uncertain and disappointing time, and even more so fortunate to be working under my supervisor, Dulce Gutierrez Vasquez.
If you are ever in Seattle (post-COVID), I implore you to visit this beautiful organization – you are guaranteed to feel that you are home.