“From Puebla to South Philly: An Immigration Field Study” Day 1

By: Helen Felker (’16) and Kayoung Lee (’16)

Today was a packed day!

We woke up bright and early and were out the door by 8:30 to go meet Sister Maria Lauren at Annunciation Church. Sister Maria lived for several years in Michoacán, and is continuing her service to the predominantly Mexican community that is rapidly growing in South Philadelphia. As a place held in trust by  the community, the Church functions as a meeting place and common refuge for many. Sister Maria has seen it all, and is currently working on teaching ESL classes and protesting the current alliance between Philadelphia Police Department and Immigration services. Unfortunately, because Philadelphia police are required to report any undocumented immigrants to Immigration, many undocumented people are afraid to report anything to the police, instead suffering discrimination and other crimes in silence. Hopefully, we will be able to see Sister Maria again on Wednesday morning, when we go to a protest over this dangerous policy.

After our meeting with Sister Maria, we went to see Southwark School, the public elementary school where Puentes Hacia el Futuro is based. We were fortunate enough to speak with the principal of Southwark about current challenges facing the Philadelphia Public School system. More specifically, we spoke at length about No Child Left Behind and the current struggles faced by many English Language Learners at Southwark.

After this eye-opening meeting, we ate lunch at South Philadelphia’s landmark Singing Fountain, and met with Esther Morales, the director of Puentes Hacia el Futuro. Esther was kind enough to show us the community center where Puentes Hacia el Futuro offers many of its after school programs.

Right after the meeting, we rushed to meet the 7th grade girls in Southwark Elementary participating in weekly group discussions with Jemma as part of the adolescent support program of Puentes de Salud. After sitting around in a circle and getting to know one another, we went out to explore and got a taste of South Philly’s Italian market with the girls. Their ambition, enthusiasm, and curiosity was inspiring, and the lovely weather was very accommodating. We concluded the tour in Capitolo Playground, while we munched on delicious tacos that the girls treated us to with their own money that they raised through a bake sale they organized last week.

Beautiful tacos from Mole Poblano!

Beautiful tacos from Mole Poblano!

Afterwards, we went to the Puentes de Salud clinic in the Penn Medicine building. We were able to squeeze into one of the staff rooms to hear the founder of Puentes Hacia El Futuro, Daphne Owen’s energetic presentation of the work that the clinic is doing.  Their nurse-practitioner focused model of providing health services interested me, particularly their desire to provide a service that takes time to discuss one-on-one with patients the confluence of factors that determines health outcomes.

We came back home exhausted from our busy first day, but our hunger was soon quite satisfied by a delicious dinner of cranberry-tomato salad and oven-baked mac & cheese (credits to Jemma!).

We’re super excited about the days to come!

Daphne Owen speaks to the group about the history of Mexican immigration in Philadelphia and the work of Puentes de Salud.

Daphne Owen speaks to the group about the history of Mexican immigration in Philadelphia and the work of Puentes de Salud.


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