What are you doing after graduation?
Before the end of my senior year in December, the question lurked behind every final exam and senior project. I’d checked off every box.
I was finished.
So how did I find myself 1200 miles and 20 hours away from everyone I love, sitting in the office of a dentist with a woman from El Salvador, trying to remember the Spanish word for gums? (It’s encias, if you’re wondering).
This spring, I’ve packed up my tent and hiking boots and moved to Virginia for three months to be the Student.Go intern for LUCHA Ministries, Inc.
Why LUCHA? Why now?
After seeing the struggles of my undocumented friends in Texas, I knew I wanted to work with immigrants. My minor is Spanish; I’ve studied abroad in Central America and have great appreciation for Latino heritage and culture.
Who is LUCHA? What do they do?
LUCHA wears many hats in the community, but their primary purpose it to provide holistic care for Latino immigrants in Fredericksburg.
My jobs so far:
-helping a committed group of Latina volunteers unload and distribute food for families in crisis.
-teaching the only bilingual Girl Scout Troop in Virginia to dance the twist to the Beatles as they prepare for a presentation about England
-teaching an ESL class at the local church for adults
-serving as a translator at the dentist
-increasing outreach and fundraising through social media and blogging
-brainstorming for the Community Give, a city-wide day of fundraising for Fredericksburg
-getting ready for the Advocacy Summit in D.C. where I’ll meet my representatives and learn about opportunities for reform
-meeting the women of Project Adelante, a women’s empowerment group
We painted watercolors this week, are making soap next week, then on to computer certification, basic Spanish and English pronunciation.
Reasons I’m here
- I needed something productive to do between finding a job and applying to grad school
- I’ve seen the struggles of my undocumented friends in Texas. Many of them were kids who came to the U.S. when they were in elementary school and have been unable to receive citizenship ever since.They’re honor students who volunteer, help me when my car isn’t working, take care of their younger siblings. But they still can’t get a driver’s license, register to vote and live in fear of deportation.
- I’m tired of hearing human beings (especially some of the nicest, most hospitable people you could ever meet) described as illegal and alien. No person is illegal.
Actions are illegal. People are not. Calling someone this is just another way to dehumanize them. And when we use language to dehumanize others, we open ourselves up to all sorts of terrible historical realities like the Holocaust and Rwandan genocide.
Although I once again find myself out of my cultural comfort zone, this is what I love to do, so I’m going to try new things until something works.
I’m excited for new opportunities and friendships, hiking along the Appalachian Trail, exploring D.C. and getting a little bit closer to figuring out my place in this thing called reality.
“The planet does not need more successful people. The planet desperately needs more peacemakers, healers, restorers, storytellers, and lovers of all kinds.” – Dalai Lama
Ashleigh Bugg graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor with a degree in journalism and Spanish. She has worked with Student.Go in Fort Worth, Texas, Kosice, Slovakia and Fredericksburg, Virginia. She blogs about international issues and affordable travel at Travel Bugg.