SAN BENITO — A volunteer is someone who takes time out of their schedule to help those in need.
Elvia Sanchez and Ester Plata are prime examples of that kind of volunteer.
Both are dedicated volunteers at La Posada Providencia in San Benito.
Sanchez has been volunteering weekly at the shelter since 2013. She is a retired elementary teacher who loves to teach.
Three years ago, while attending Mass, Sanchez heard a group of people talk about their volunteer experience at La Posada. After listening to the group, she knew she wanted to be involved with the shelter.
Since then, Sanchez has made a weekly commitment to tutor and has become one of the shelter’s most valued regular volunteers.
The clients, mainly women and children, have traveled hundreds of miles fleeing countries that haven’t been kind to them.
Most, if not all, are fleeing some type of religious persecution and political unrest.
As a safe haven, La Posada has relied heavily on the kindness of the community and their volunteers.
When asked to describe La Posada, Sanchez said it’s a fantastic place that does wonderful things.
One thing Sanchez looks forward to while volunteering with the clients is meeting new people from different countries and learning about different cultures.
For Sanchez, it is more than just volunteering at the shelter, it is about supporting the work that she believes in and that the shelter delivers.
“La Posada gives people opportunities to learn the language and culture of the United States all while receiving a lot of love and care from staff, volunteers and other clients,” Sanchez said.
She sees how much clients enjoy attending class and how they like learning and singing patriotic songs, such as “The Star Spangled Banner” and “God Bless America.”
Plata has spent the last three years volunteering at the shelter.
Like Sanchez, she tutors clients in English.
Plata said the reason she volunteers with La Posada is because she enjoys reaching out to people.
Before Plata became a tutor, she worked as an English teacher, a school counselor, and as assistant principal. She said that helping others comes natural to her.
Plata first learned about La Posada from another volunteer who recommended her to become a tutor. After visiting the shelter, she decided to make a commitment to tutor clients once a week.
One reason she has continued to volunteer for three years is that she enjoys talking to the clients and meeting new people from different countries.
“I can relate to them, because at one point I couldn’t speak any English and so I had to learn. I understand how they feel learning a new language,” she said.
“La Posada is a safe haven for people, the comradeship between everyone who works here is evident.”
All of the shelter’s clients are referred to them by the U.S. Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement or local immigration attorneys.
They are in the legal process of seeking asylum, residency or some other legal alternative.
While they wait for their cases to advance through the court system, most of these individuals have no place to go and arrive at La Posada’s doorstep with nothing.
Staff and volunteers ensure they receive the necessary legal aid, health care, social services and other relocation assistance.
In addition, staff members and volunteers help clients become familiar with the values, customs and social practices typical in the U.S., including currency, personal finance and employment practices.
Many asylum seekers arrive in the U.S. with both physical and emotional scars from their journeys from places as far as Africa, Cuba, Mexico and Asia.
They are fleeing for various reasons, including civil unrest, fear of government control, political unrest and religious persecution.
The shelter sees a lot of mothers with children who have fled their home countries out of fear, sometimes leaving their significant others behind.
Some arrive alone and some arrive with whole families.