NLN member spotlight: Chicanos Por La Causa de Colores

As part of our series highlighting National Latin@ Network member organizations, meet an organization making a difference in the lives of immigrant survivors. In this conversation, we speak with CPLC De Colores’ Community-Based Program Manager, Marina Jessop.

What brought you to the work of supporting survivors of gender based violence?

I actually won a trip on the Oprah show to South Africa!  It was for her book club and the book to be read was “Cry The Beloved Country” by Alan Patan.  I was one of three viewers selected to go abroad to be on her show.  The book was based on race and inequality in South Africa post-Apartheid.  I had to write a letter on my thoughts about the issues.

Once I arrived, it was my first time abroad other then Mexico – what I saw and experienced was both breath taking and surreal for me, it changed my life – so much that once I returned home I could no longer go on and keep on doing what I was doing.  I had to do something that would make a difference, so I embarked on a 10 year journey through school where I ended up getting my degree in social work through Arizona State University, and another degree that ended full circle where the change first occurred, back in South Africa but this time to live.  I got a degree in Community Development at the University of Cape Town, which is the study of poverty, inequality and injustice issues, on a full ride scholarship from Rotary International.  My dream was to work with survivors of human trafficking.  I landed a job first in the White Mountains as a social worker for a domestic violence shelter mainly for the White Mountain Apache tribe, and then in Phoenix, Arizona where I now live and work for Chicanos Por La Causa De Colores.  CPLC hired me six years ago to begin the community based program for survivors of sexual and domestic violence.  We have also come full circle and now serve survivors of human trafficking, my dream come true.

What do you currently do in your position to support survivors?

I oversee the program – I help the people who help the people.  We are a team of 12 individuals who serve approximately 200 individuals and nearly 400 children.  We are a culturally specific program, serving Latin@ survivors of sexual and domestic violence in the Phoenix metropolitan area.  We are the only agency in Arizona who serves specifically the Hispanic people in the way that we do.  All staff are either bilingual or Spanish speaking only as the majority of our clients are monolingual Spanish speakers.  We offer services in case management, legal advocacy, a Promotora Program, which are survivors of sexual and domestic violence that are no longer living in their abusive relationships and are in a place of thriving in life.  They receive an intensive training on sexual and domestic violence and once they have completed their training they speak in the public via local Hispanic radio and television shows , educating them on services, resources and survivor options.  All of our Promotoras are Spanish speaking and do their presentations in Spanish.  We have three different transitional housing programs, an economic empowerment program which educates and empowers immigrant survivors on starting their own business and all of the credit basics in building credit and creative ideas on improving their income through a different economic infrastructure rather then the traditional one.  Our newest program is our transitional housing for  human trafficking survivors.

How can we support loved ones who have been impacted by intimate partner violence, family violence, sexual violence?

Be a listening ear, without judgement.  I always advise advocates to get out of their own way, meaning let go of their own agenda.  As long as you are educating survivors of their rights and the steps that they can take, you are doing your job.  Remember that it is their life and their choice.  It takes an individual on average 12 times to leave and come back to an abuser before they leave for good, so be patient.  Be the advocate you would want to be if you were in your own clients shoes.

What advice would you give persons working with Latin@ survivors of these forms of gender based violence during the pandemic?

Now more than ever with domestic violence cases on the rise, services are needed for the Latin@ population.  With a new and changing world, we need to meet clients where they are at, meaning:  Be mindful if the individual is not technologically savvy.  Be creative in the way that you serve the individual.  If the client does not know how to navigate through technology, take some time to meet with them in a park to walk them through how to use Zoom or whatever platform you need to use to assist them. Always be mindful if the abuser is around during phone calls or video chats.  Know the resources in your community that can best serve your client.  If you do not know, do not be afraid to ask your supervisor, other team members or agencies.  That is the way that we learn.

How do you practice well-being and self-care?

I used to be a massage therapist and yoga instructor where I also taught individuals to meditate.  I thought that my previous world and the DV world were completely separate worlds but the more I learn about radical healing and self-care, these worlds very much go hand in hand.  I try to take care of my body, I am health conscious but also leave room for food enjoyment as well.  I exercise on a daily basis and find things that I love to do:  hiking, spinning, yoga, weight training and jogging are a few things that I do to work out.  I meditate daily as well as incorporate yoga into my weekly schedule.  I am big on taking care of yourself first so that you then have the energy to give to others.