As first-time visitors to Capitol Hill, Voices That Matter Most participants and KIND clients, Carlos* and Joshua*, could not contain their excitement to meet, share their stories with, and discuss pressing issues with Jennifer Piatt from the House of Representatives Judiciary Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship. KIND’s Voices project trains clients across the country in storytelling/sharing and advocacy so they can become advocates for themselves and their peers.
Carlos and Joshua marveled at the tall and modern glass building in front of them. They had come a long way from their lives in El Salvador where they feared for their own survival. As Carlos and Joshua rode up the elevator to Jennifer’s office, they wondered how they should start the discussion. “We have so much we’d like to talk about!” Carlos said. The Voices project had trained them to advocate and about the importance of their stories and experiences to create positive change and promote justice. And here they were, about to meet someone in government whose work was to do just that.
Carlos and Joshua were eager to emphasize to Jennifer the importance of legal representation for children alone. Joshua explained how having an attorney by his side had profound impact on his life and made him realize the influence of KIND. “KIND has touched every aspect of my life,” he said. “They have shown me that the sky is the limit.” Carlos added, “KIND has shown me that I can make it and make something productive out of my life.” They underscored to Jennifer that they could not have gained U.S. protection without an attorney. Both of them expressed a deep interest in helping others through social work, photography, and film to help others feel that they are supported and not alone.
Greatly impressed by Jennifer’s accomplishments, they asked how she became interested in policy and in working to defend the rights of vulnerable children. Jennifer shared some of the challenges in her life that compelled her to work to advance laws to protect those suffering from injustice.
Listening intently, Joshua and Carlos said that they were amazed by the fact that, despite coming from different backgrounds and cultures, their stories of resilience, hard work, and perseverance were so similar. “At the end of the day, we’re all human, with hopes and dreams,” Carlos said.
Jennifer said meeting Joshua and Carlos renewed her commitment to helping unaccompanied children gain fair access to U.S. protection.
The meeting ended with both Joshua and Carlos determined to continue sharing their experiences and to keep striving towards accomplishing their goals of helping others and documenting immigrants’ stories. Joshua said, “Although there may be obstacles, you can always get results, if you put your mind to it.”
*Names changed to protect client’s identity