This week’s musings

IMG_1714

One of the highlights of last week was going to the firm’s other office in Avondale. While the Philadelphia office consists only of Anna, the attorney, and three summer interns for now, the Avondale office has three legal assistant staff members, all whom are women. I’m crazy grateful to be working for and learning about a firm comprised of all women! I loved getting to meet them and gain some new perspective on doing this work. The receptionist area of the office is pictured above: there’s a waiting room for clients, a play area in the corner for clients who bring young children with them, a receptionist desk, and work spaces for the other staff. Oh, and all the artwork on the walls is from local artists, and the office sells them! On this trip to Avondale, Anna told me a bit about the community here. Avondale has a very large Latinx immigrant community which is centered around the many mushroom farms that provide employment. On many of the consultations I observed and helped provide translation for, clients came with stories of work-related abuses or incidents that related to issues of immigration. Along with these stories of work discrimination were a stream of familiar tales about women facing domestic violence, sick children in need of care in the U.S., and families wanting to be together.

IMG_1698

Meanwhile, outside the office, #BlackLivesMatter protests have raged on consistently in Philly. Thinking about the many forms and scary manifestations of racism in our country now…..This summer I’ve been constantly saddened and angered to hear of the police brutality and racial violence plaguing black lives. Amidst the despair, I’m grateful to have witnessed powerful protest leaders and people dedicating themselves to cry out against what has become the status quo. I’m continuing to learn that systems of racism, xenophobia and sexism are so intimately connected and entrenched in this country.

FullSizeRender   c71f6576-f707-49b8-8c9e-5284a410bad9

 

Puppies, Playfullness and Preoccupation

image

Axel (15 years old) shows off his bracelet.

image

The kids in dance class.

image

Band practice in full swing.

image

Cristofer (white shirt), Axel (red shirt) and Everth (striped shirt) waiting to start playing.

 

image

Cristofer completed this word search in order to learn spelling for English vocabulary words and to practice them.

image

New arrivals! One of the dogs (Kiara) at Los Quinchos gave birth to seven puppies a few weeks ago. The dog house is the product of the boys’ carpentry class.

image

Rafael (12 years old) and Everth’s (13 years old) intricate coloring pages.

image

Top Right: effects of stress; Bottom Right: physical – pain in the body and tiredness; Top Left: mental – headache and anger

image

List of things the boys will do to relieve their stress. Among the things listed you’ll find: meditating, playing soccer, sleeping and reading.

 

Things at Los Quinchos have been in full swing lately. Along with the arrival of Jacob, our final Haverford volunteer who just came from his study abroad program in Argentina, the Quinchos have also welcomed seven new puppies to their family. As the puppies grew older, the boys made a home for the mother and pups in their carpentry class.

So far, the boys and girls have had a week long vacation from classes in which some went home and others went on a three day vacation with some adults from the program. Now that they’re back, band and dance classes have been picking up, with performances coming up in September. Our group has done more reinforcement in terms of math, reading and English classes and exercises. We have also conducted a workshop on stress management in which they had to identify forms of stress in their lives, how it effects them and how to avoid stressful situations as well as relieve stress. As part of stress relief, our group has also begun bracelet making workshops and coloring and drawing workshops with music. This has proved to be very effective in calming them and fostering a creative environment. Our group is working on more workshops for the kids as well attempting to do some service projects.

Letters, Listening & Learning

One of the most poignant parts of my week was coming across the following letters while categorizing the documents in a clients’ file:

IMG_1667

IMG_1668

They were written by a client’s children for his application for permanent residence in the U.S. through his marriage to a U.S. citizen.  His children wrote letters proving to the judge that their lives would be significantly affected if he were to be deported.  In addition to these letters, some of the client’s younger children drew pictures on messages written for them and signed their names.  My encounter with these letters struck me as a symbol of immigration policy in the U.S. Imagining these young children fearing their father’s deportation and having to beg the government to spare their suffering disgusted me. The system our country has created to handle immigration becomes all the more arbitrary and depressing in my eyes as I get further into this internship.  However, I continue to be inspired by the many attorneys and organizations who do so much good work to change this system.

Another moment that echoed this feeling happened when I helped provide translation for a woman coming in for a consultation. She came to the lawyer Anna with a story of mistreatment at her workplace, domestic violence, and multiple other struggles. Listening to this woman share what she has experienced as an immigrant woman again revealed how our country values and treats immigrants. As she discussed the discrimination and mistreatment she encountered at her job, I was again reminded of the racism, xenophobia, sexism, and hatred that fuels the anti-immigrant sentiments underscoring U.S. immigration policy.

Something that I’ve loved about this job is getting both an abstract, large-scale perspective on the issues and injustices surrounding immigration in the U.S., as well as intimately learning about the realities and intricacies of immigration law.  My supervising attorney Anna often shares with us her insights on immigration in the U.S. as a whole, as well as how to manage a private practice, what it’s like to work in the non-profit world, which forms and visas are which, and how to file motions in the court, among other aspects of this career.  She listens to my thoughts and feelings about how the work is going for me, and often gives advice and offers for the other interns and I to have lunch with people from different organizations who can share what their work is like with us.  Everyday, I leave the office having learned something new and having gained a new perspective, even if I am somewhat exhausted from all the learning!

 

13458737_291234287883797_1612690953536566418_o

Tuttle Summer Arts Lab 2016: “The Pool Movie”

This summer, Sarah Moses ‘16, Harlow Figa ‘16, Nick Gandolfo-Lucia ‘16, Marcelo Jauregui-Volpe ‘18 are fellows at the Tuttle Summer Arts Lab. This year, the lab is centered around doing post-production work on Artist-in-Resident Vicky Funari’s latest feature film, the currently untitled “Pool Movie.”

Vicky describes the film as “a documentary [...] about a group of older women who find strength, grace, and community in an aquacize class at their neighborhood swimming pool. Set in a YMCA swimming pool in the suburbs of Philadelphia, this group of 60-90 year old women have spent 25 years together in the pool. The film documents the class’s final year in the old pool, as the Y prepares to close the branch and transition to a shiny, new building. Over a year in the pool, creative projects flourish, illness strikes, friendships evolve, seasons change. This is a study of older bodies and souls in water, in motion, in transition, and in community with each other.”

This summer, the student fellows will work with some of the subjects of the film to produce content for the film’s website. Below, each of the fellows has written about how they came to the fellowship, and what they have been working on so far.

Marcelo: I caught a quick glimpse of the poster promoting this year’s summer arts lab as I was walking around Stokes this past spring. In that glimpse I noticed the water, the people, and pool dumbbells. These faint images instantly reminded me of a project Vicky Funari mentioned to me in the fall when I interviewed her for a journalism class. I decided to turn around and give the poster a good look. My thoughts were confirmed, and I felt as if it was necessary for me to apply. I took a production class with Vicky both semester’s this past school year, and in the process learned about what it really takes to be a documentary filmmaker. Vicky’s courses forced me to re-imagine the documentary form and tap into the creative reservoirs of my mind. By being a part of this summer arts lab, I believe I can continue this growth. The subject matter also appeals to me, since I have been immersed in pools and oceans since I was three. Aging has also crossed my mind a lot recently, since I’ve been starting to notice that a lot of the people who raised me are now starting to face greater limitations with their bodies.

My other team member is Nick Gandolfo-Lucia, which excites me, due to his thoughtfulness and experience. Through our meetings with the community fellows, we have come up with a lot of ideas on how to expand on and reinforce the material from Vicky’s film.

Sarah: I took my first class with Vicky the spring of my sophomore year, and quickly realized I wanted to pursue a career in documentary filmmaking. I continued taking classes with Vicky throughout my time at Haverford, and am beyond excited to be working on the “Pool Movie” project after having heard much about it over the past few years.  I just graduated with a Haverford degree (although my Film and Media Studies major was based at Swarthmore – thanks tri-co!) and am happy to be on my home turf for the summer working with so many intelligent, inciteful, and fun people.

This project involves collaboration with Vicky Funari, Hilary Brashear ‘14, and nine community fellows who are all subjects in the film. I am currently working on a team with Harlow and a group of community fellows (Jeannine, Dottie, Martha, and Joel), along with fellow documentary student Nishat Hossain. We have been brainstorming content for the future “Pool Movie” site, including video diaries, mini memoirs, and portrait vignettes. One of the most rewarding aspects of the fellowship has been our collaboration with the community fellows, from our brainstorming sessions to our Photoshop and InDesign workshops. We have also been discussing cross-generational platform accessibility, and playing around with a breadth of interactive documentary websites. In the coming weeks we will continue working closely with the other fellows developing and producing content for the movie’s future website….

Nick: Like many of the other fellows on this project, I came to documentary film through a course I took with Professor Funari during my sophomore year. In that course, I (along with David Roza ‘15) produced an unfortunate and more or less irredeemable short film titled Cup Dreams, which personified the plastification of our water supply under the environmental indifference of late capitalism. Despite its inherent cheekiness, the film was one of the most difficult and most worthwhile projects I had ever been asked to undertake by a professor, and it led me to take a class with Vicky every subsequent year until graduation. I heard murmurings of her current feature film project intermittently throughout these courses: the ambiguously titled “Pool Movie.” As someone who had been lured into the proverbial deep end of documentary under her tutelage, I very much wanted to know more about her own project. Fortuitously, the spring of my senior year, the Hurford Center began accepting applications for the Tuttle Summer Arts Lab 2016, which presented the opportunity to work for Vicky on her film by producing content for the website in collaboration with the subjects of her film. Being equal parts interested in Vicky’s project and desperately seeking any kind of gainful employment for the conclusion of my time as an undergrad, I applied and was accepted to the Lab.

For the last several weeks, I have been on a team with Marcelo, another student fellow, and Shellie, Sherry, Lorraine, Tricia, and Jean, all of whom are subjects in the “Pool Movie.” Together we have brainstormed ideas for the website, especially focusing on how to make the website accessible and entertaining for older people. In addition to planning the vignettes and coordinating filming dates with the local YMCA, we have learned Photoshop and InDesign as a way to mock up web pages and potential content. By the end of the summer, our group is hoping to finish 3 sections, including a virtual art gallery and a short film about how the men that use the Y feel about being in a woman-majority aquatic space.

Harlow: I first met Vicky through curating a seminar/panel discussion my Sophomore year with the CPGC, which included Vicky and brief discussion of her film Live Nude Girls Unite!.  The following semester, I decided to indulge my long-term interest in film and filmmaking, so I signed up for her Documentary Film and Approaches to Truth course. This turned out to be one of several classes I took with Vicky, with each subsequent course building upon skills and theories taught/learned previously. Vicky’s supportive and trusting mode of teaching allowed me to create films of high personal significance, which deepened my respect and enjoyment of filmmaking. Though I majored in Anthropology, minored in Health Studies, and concentrated in Gender/Sexuality, the flexibility of Haverford’s curriculum allowed me to build a strong foundation in documentary film theory and production. The Pool Project has been a wonderful way to directly apply my backgrounds in (media-based) Anthropology, Health Studies, and Gender/Sexuality, as the media-based project addresses a health-centered and gendered community.

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of working with Vicky Funari, Hilary Brashear, and  four of my friends/peers (Sarah, Marcelo, Nick, and Nishat) outside of our usual classroom context. We have been working directly with the community members/film subjects, which has been a wonderful multi-generational learning experience. Other than discussing their stories and how we can incorporate them into the project, we have also been learning programs like InDesign and Photoshop to create content for this project. Right now, we’re working on scheduling shoots with our subjects for vignettes that may eventually live on the Pool Project [title pending] website. We’re also jumping into the deep pool of footage that Vicky has been collecting for several years, which feels like a particularly fortuitous opportunity after hearing her cursorily describe the project/footage during her classes.

 

Celebrating 26 Years of Los Quinchos

Sara helping the girls from Las Yahoskas to blow up balloons to put around as decorations.

image

Along with juggling, hula hoop acrobatics, gymnastics and several other circus tricks, the kids wowed the crowd with a carefully choreographed unicycle performance.

 

image

Most of the girls in the center participated in a large traditional dance performed for the crowd.

image

Some of the boys also showed off their skills by performing a traditional dance. The boys and girls at the center have weekly dance classes throughout the year as one of their set activities.

image

A large crowd gathered around the pool for the swimming and diving competitions.

Everth and Kevin performed a hilarious skit based off of word play jokes.

The 26th Anniversary of Los Quinchos took place on June 19th. Set to start at nine, no actual festivities took place until at least ten or eleven, as was expected for Nicaraguan time. Sara, Rosemary and I arrived early to finish putting up balloons, crepe paper, signs, and any decorations that had been left for the morning. The whole week earlier had been spent cleaning the boys site, where the party took place. The actual event was a whole lot of fun and silliness. The educators helped to lead events such as diving and swimming competitions and soccer games that were played between the different projects and volunteers. The kids showed off their skills through skits, traditional dances and circus tricks that were learned through an organization that passes by every year. The night was topped off with great food, a campesino mass and dancing.

Thoughts on Law and Life

Looking back on this week at the firm, I realize how much I’ve learned in what has felt like such a fast, busy time.  One of the most impactful parts of my week was observing immigration court on Tuesday.  The cases that morning were all on the juvenile docket, so many of the defendants were children and/or unaccompanied minors.  The other interns and I sat in the back of the room watching the proceedings.  Each time a new case was called, a teenager or child took their seat by their lawyer in front of the judge.  If the child was young, the judge would smile and ask them questions about school, or thank them for wearing nice clothing because it showed respect for the court.  Despite this show of affection, the lawyer I work for, Anna, explained that the judge was only continuing or closing their cases, rather than granting them any actual status or citizenship.  At the end of the hearing for each case, the judge explained to the child that he was making their case inactive, but that at any point, should the government choose, their case could be reopened and they could be deported.  Hearing a child receive this mix of immediate relief and fear of the future was overwhelming.  Learning that this is one manifestation of the way that the government treats child immigrants was hard to stomach, and gave me all the more respect for attorneys who pour so much energy into representing children, whose cases are often especially sensitive or difficult to handle.

In addition to observing court, my week included sitting in on consultations, filling out applications with clients (while trying to improve my translation skills!), researching country conditions to support briefs, calling clients about appointments, filing motions in immigration court, and helping transcribe an interview for a client’s affidavit.  During our lunch breaks, Anna gives us time to debrief, ask questions, reflect on how things are going, and hear her perspective on a variety of issues related to her work and immigration.

One of the perks of working by City Hall is getting to walk to Reading Terminal Market and Chinatown for coffee or lunch sometimes during the week!  Having time to reflect as well as time to just laugh and get to know each other has also been one of best parts of my internship so far.  Thinking all of these thoughts as I left the office on Friday and headed to the City Hall trolley station, grateful for a week of good work and excited for the weekend ahead….IMG_1494

English, and Sewing and Hammocks, Oh My!

It has been a busy week here in San Marcos, Nicaragua for Sara, Rosemary and I! Apart from trying to learn the names of over twenty girls and thirty boys, we have been running around getting to know everyone and starting small projects. So far we have done some vocabulary English classes for the younger girls and grammar for the older ones. Rosemary and Sara are planning on starting a running/jogging/walking activity for the girls in order to relieve stress and excess energy in the afternoon. Together we have helped to mentor the kids in science, math and writing classes. Through the making of multiplication, subtraction, addition and division worksheets we are hoping to strengthen their ability and confidence in math. For writing we follow the teaching style of the local schools, where we read aloud simple sentences and then check their spelling when they write them.
The boys at Los Quinchos and the older girls from Las Yahoskas have been mostly working at the boys’ site in order to help clean the area for the 26th anniversary celebration this Sunday. It will be a day full of games, showmanship and fun.

 

Rosemary and Ana Valeria (age 11) work on some math.

Apart from bringing us the occasional star fruit and mango that grow on the properties, the boys and girls take part in several individual activities and projects. The boys work with carpentry, make hammocks, work on the farm at their site and and bake bread. The girls practice sewing and get beauty salon lessons in which they learn how to paint nails, dye hair, cut hair and style it. Both learn pottery and take dance classes.
Besides us three, there are several other people who frequent the sites. One of them, a friend named Kendel, helps me to take the girls and boys to attend catholic mass on Thursdays and Sundays. The outing is fun and serves as a way to get the kids off site for a bit.
If you would like to learn more about the history and structure of the two sites, check out the blog post Rosemary and Jacob wrote last summer: blogs.haverford.edu/globalcitizen/2015/08/05/los-quinchos-an-organizational-low-down/.

11 year old Pilar’s math worksheet.

This week we will continue to clean the boys’ site in preparation for the anniversary celebration!

Week 1: immigration law intern

Where to begin…..I received CPGC sponsorship this summer to work with Sweet & Paciorek, LLC., an immigration law firm.  I knew that I wanted to work in the realm of immigrant rights in some capacity this summer after going on the CPGC’s Borderlands migration field study over winter break.  On that trip, our group was fortunate to meet a number of incredible individuals and groups working as activists for immigrant rights.  Among these people, we met a couple of women immigrant attorneys who were tirelessly diligent, brilliant, and compassionate.  I remember thinking of these individuals as life forces who dedicated themselves to advocacy alongside a population that the U.S. consistently seeks to delegitimize and invalidate.  They used their power not to speak for the migrants they represented, but to create a platform upon which their clients are more able to voice their own needs.

Fast forward to last Monday, when I gave my best attempt at feeling comfortable in business casual clothing (feeling like a semi-adult after swapping my flip-flops for flats as I neared the office several blocks from Philly City Hall at the end of my walk).  Anna, the lawyer who I work under, quickly swept me into the world of filing I-589s and N-400s and G-28s and myriad other numbered forms I’m constantly trying to remember, along with scheduling appointments for clients, observing court proceedings, and assisting with translation during consultations.

At the heart of this busy and crazy work, though, is listening to the stories of clients and working to bring their needs and desires to fruition – whether they be to remain united with family, to achieve access to economic opportunities, or to escape violence or abuse.  Ironically, many of these problems in Central America stem from actions the U.S. has taken and continues to take that created severe damage in the first place.  After only one week of work, too many stories of domestic violence, rape, molestation, and gang violence in clients’ home countries have grated against my ears.  I’m already worn out by the heaviness of these stories, and by the arbitrariness of the law that tells a couple married for years that one of them must be deported, or that insinuates that a young woman’s asylum claim is not strong enough because she has not been abused enough.

In the midst of this work, Anna explains everything to me and the other interns as she goes.  She is constantly breaking down the law for us or explaining something confusing in court, in addition to offering her sage advice, perspective, and expertise.  She asks us, the interns, how we are doing with our work everyday, and genuinely invests in our growth, learning, and development throughout the summer.  I have already encountered the same seed of reverence for people steadfastly working towards justice and peace for others within this law firm.  In the newness and busyness of this summer, I can trust and fall back on my belief that I am beginning to learn how to do good and meaningful work with good people.

Oh, and I’ll work on taking some pictures to liven up my future posts!

 

 

Delegation Tour Through Nicaragua

Props and figures used in parades that represent myths, legends and folklores seen at a museum in Leon.

One of the many decorated rotundas in Managua. This one features “The Trees of Life” and a portrait of Chávez. Both light up at night.

Mural in the public library of Esteli. Public libraries are a revolutionary idea, considering books are three or more times as expensive in Nicaragua than in the U.S.

Carvings in the mountainside in Tisey made by local sculpture artist Alberto.

One of the many churches in Leon.

This summer Sara, Rosemary and I will be working in Los Quinchos (boys residential center) and Las Yahoskas (girls residential center) with ProNica in San Marcos, Nicaragua. With the CPGC’s funding, I was able to secure a spot working in solidarity with this amazing NGO that has many projects all around Nicaragua. In my specific placement I will be working with teens and kids in residential centers, helping run and coordinate workshops, mentoring, tutoring and the like until August 10th.

I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua on June 1st and have been touring throughout Nicaragua on a delegation tour since then. We have visited Leon (the city of churches), Estelí (a more rural city with many farms and great hiking) and Managua (the capital, a bustling city). Tomorrow we will embark towards our final destination, San Marcos, where we will finally meet our host families and the people we will be working with this summer. So far I have seen amazing things (including a carved mountain side), met great people (such as a professional guitarist) and learned so much (like the fact that you can’t flush toilet paper in the toilets here). Nicaragua is a beautiful country with rich history and beautiful, meaningful cultural practices that I am excited to learn more about as I continue on this journey. As we approach tomorrow, I find myself looking forward more and more to seeing the project site and meeting everyone there.