#JVReflects by Diego Jones (Gresham, OR ’18-19) serving at El Programa Hispano Católico (EPHC) as Sexual Violence Prevention Educator & Domestic/Sexual Violence Interventionist.
When I first decided to do a year of service with Projecto Unica, an organization that focuses on providing social services to Latinx survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault in the Metro-area of Portland many of my friends and relatives were a little surprised. One of their main questions was: if you want to work with the Latinx community why are you going to Portland? Why not LA or San Diego?
At the time I had a very vague idea of what my service year was going to look like and what the situation of the Latinx community was in Oregon. I simply responded: Just because the Latinx community in Portland is not as big as in other cities in the U.S. doesn’t mean that there are no challenges to overcome; I think it means that there are more challenges and fewer resources.
Two months into my service year my supervisor gave me a new project to work on; she asked me to develop a curriculum for a new support group, the first support group for Latinx male survivors of my organization and of the state of Oregon. At the time I didn’t realize how much impact this new initiative was going to have. I started to do my research and sent emails and flyers to other organizations to invite participants to the support group. Rapidly I learned that there are very few resources available for male Latinx survivors seeking support. Cultural barriers, language barriers, and particular ideas around domestic violence have created a very complex system for male survivors to navigate in order to access the resources they need, often isolating, diminishing and discriminating against their experiences.
So far I have six participants in our support group. We meet once a week and we learn together. I have had the honor of witnessing the power of solidarity within my new community. I have seen Latinx men disclose for the first time in public that they are homosexual. I have seen men cry next to their peers as they have shared their stories and their grievances. I have also seen men greet, hug each other and laugh. My hope is that this group will continue to grow so it can serve more men who have gone through experiences of domestic violence and sexual assault and that the men that I am working with now can become leaders in their community so they can empower others as well.
This year, JVC Northwest has invited us to focus and reflect on the idea of Justice Starts as Home, a concept that, to me, represents both a challenge and an invitation. On the one hand it is important to recognize that it is not easy to build a new community in one year and feel completely at home, but at the same time, it is an invitation to try, to seek encounters with God, with life and with others. While I am still learning about the challenges that the Latinx community faces on a regular basis in the metro-area of Portland, I look at the men in my support group who have come to Oregon from remote areas of Mexico, Central and South America; to them Oregon is their home now. It is the place where they work, where they are raising children, where they are joining efforts to grow as individuals and as a community, and where they are fighting for social justice. They inspire me to believe that even though I am serving in a place far away from my hometown I can still join their efforts to fight for social justice here, in a place that they have made their home.
— Diego Jones, 2018-19 JV, El Programa Hispano Catolico – Projecto Unica