A RILA Volunteer Comes Full Circle

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Ana, a regular Restoration Immigration Legal Aid (RILA) volunteer, can’t say enough about the difference that RILA volunteers make in clients’ lives:  “People listen.  They will commit to you to the end, no matter what….RILA is so valuable.”

As a volunteer interpreter and translator, Ana has been a witness to this commitment.  As a former client of RILA, she has also been on the receiving end.

Ana’s introduction to RILA came almost two years ago, at a desperate point in her life.  She was a victim of a cruel deception that brought her to this country and led to near captivity.  Ana, along with her daughter,  experienced isolation and deprivation in their first two and a half years in the US.  During this time, she sought the assistance of private and nonprofit attorneys, but they claimed her case was hopeless – or would be prohibitively expensive to pursue.  Eventually, her circumstances led to hospitalization, and her daughter was placed in foster care.   Ana describes this time as “terrible,” but she knew her daughter was safe and that this could be a turning point for them both.  Upon release from the hospital, she found work first as a cleaner and then as a teaching assistant.  At the same time, she learned of Restoration Immigration Legal Aid through her daughter’s foster parents. 

She was thrilled that RILA was willing to take her case—and at no charge.  She explained that RILA helped her secure a work permit and prepared her expansive, well-supported application for a visa.  Throughout the one-year process, Ana marveled at how much the RILA staff were willing to help her.  There was great celebration when Ana’s visa was approved – the first success for RILA and, more importantly, a chance for a new start for Ana.

One year later, Ana, who is a physician in her home country, works at the Virginia Hospital Center as a technician.  She makes time to stop by Restoration during RILA office hours to help translate documents.  She and her daughter are also regular volunteers at RILA clinics.  Ana’s own life experiences allow her to empathize and advocate for clients during the clinic sessions.  It gives her great satisfaction to help in this way.   She notes, “You won’t find another group like RILA.”

Ana explains that when she was persuaded to come to this country, she was seeking the “American dream.”  Having overcome much and received the gift of freedom, she now understands the American dream in an entirely new way.

If you would like to volunteer with RILA or be part of a new prayer team, please email Kate.