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Working In The Shadows

I am not a secret agent. It just feels like it sometimes at Casa de Paz.

We want to tell you about us and the work that we do—just not all of it (for the safety of the residents). We want to introduce you to the women and children who live in our Casa—but we can’t tell you their names. We want to show you photographs of them—but that might put them in danger. We want to tell you about the journeys that brought them to us—but, again, for their safety, we can’t tell you the full story. Most of all, we’d like to tell you where our home is and invite you to visit—but, for safety once again, we really can’t.

The problem, you see, is real danger—psychological for sure, and sometimes physical. Domestic violence, unfortunately, is real, with serious consequences. We have seen the effects at times when a new family joins us. Some women have come to our Casa following physical assaults. We need to take precautions of all sorts to prevent more of this trauma and, potentially, violence.

For me, it goes even deeper. When, in my occasional role as maintenance man, I pass the residents in the hallway, I smile and do my best in broken Spanish. With the children, it’s not so embarrassing. Their English is considerably better than my Spanish. But still, it’s frustrating. I want to do all I can to make the residents feel comfortable, but my own limitations make it very difficult.

Then there’s the whole undocumented issue. Not all our residents are undocumented, but to be truthful, most are. We at Casa de Paz happen to believe that, regardless of their status, they’re human beings and deserve all the respect that we give to others who happen to have been born in our country.

So why do I keep on volunteering here? Well, first, there’s a real need. I’ve seen the doubt and the desperation in the eyes when women first arrive. But I’ve also seen the transformation that takes place. Doubt and desperation give way to grit and determination. It can’t be easy to venture out into what is to them a strange country. But they do it. Their courage makes it much easier to be a part of Casa de Paz.

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