Volunteer Spotlight – Kimberly Villalobos, Community Technology Program

Kimberly Villalobos, Technology Assistance Volunteer in the Community Resource Room

Kimberly Villalobos, Technology Assistance Volunteer in the Community Resource Room

In May 2013 the Community Resource Room (CRR) bid farewell to outstanding Technology Assistance volunteer, Kimberly Villalobos. Kimberly,  born in Los Angeles to Salvadoran immigrants, is the first in her family to graduate from college receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration with an emphasis in Information Systems from San Francisco State University.  As a Technology Assistance volunteer, Kimberly worked closely with community members, teaching them basic computer skills such as how to use an email account, Microsoft Office applications, and how to navigate the web.

Using her personal experience and knowledge, Kimberly has provided one-on-one assistance with computers.  She shares that many Latino immigrants visiting the Resource Room come in asking “…‘what’s an email account?’” Villalobos continues that other barriers Latino visitors face is “…not only do they have to face that language barrier but there’s that digital barrier on top of the language barrier.  Everything’s gonna move to digital, so it’s really important for people to be exposed to it…at least to have the basic skills, like Internet search navigation.”

Kimberly’s compassion for others made her a popular volunteer, with clients consistently making appointments to learn from her.  She tells of a couple regular students who she witnessed make progress and gain independence throughout visits with her, “There was this one guy who – he never missed an appointment – and he came in just knowing how to use the Desktop and the basic function of a computer but not the web browsers.” Kimberly showed this client how to navigate the Internet by “start[ing] really small – learning the different types of web browsers, what each browser did.  In the end he learned how to go on CalJobs, how to make his profile, post his resume.”

Although Kimberly’s main motivation to do volunteer work in the CRR was “the satisfaction knowing that I was helping people and doing something worthwhile with my time,” she also believes that her time here has helped in her own job search: “People do like to see that you do non-profit work.  Recently when I got the interview at SFO he was actually pretty happy that I do some non-profit work.”

The Women’s Building would like to congratulate Kimberly for graduating from SFSU in May 2013, and wish her the best of luck for the future.  We appreciate the dedication that Kimberly has contributed to the CRR, and are pleased to know that both she and the clients have been positively affected by her time with us.  “I felt like the whole experience has made me grow a little bit… grow as an individual and value people more.  ‘Cause sometimes we meet people but we don’t know what they’ve been through – what their background is – and once you get to know them it’s like your perspective on that person changes so much, and that’s what I felt the whole experience has taught me.  I’m really gonna miss this place.”

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Maya Finlay, Community Technology Facilitator

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Tax Prep Program

Did You Miss An Easy Refund?
Our Tax Prep Clients Got It!

Did You Know That…?
Over 600,000 Bay Area tax-filers are eligible for an Earned Income Tax Credit when they get their taxes done.

This EITC (Earn Income Tax Credit) can be up to $5,891 per family.

Yet…
20-25% of these tax filers DON’T get this and other tax credits.

Why not?

  • They didn’t know they were eligible,
  • The tax forms can be hard to fill out
  • They have difficulty with the language.

How about paying for a tax-preparer?
This can cost $200 to $300, and for families earning less than $51,000, they can’t afford this service.

Even if someone goes to a commercial preparer and gets an “instant refund”, they are taking a loan out on their own money, usually paying 300% interest.

What do we do about this?
As part of the Earn It! Keep It! Save It! coalition, this year we again provided free tax prep so that low-income working people could get the refunds they’re entitled to.  This year, you could use our service if you earned less than $51,000.

AND, we e-filed tax returns so that a client’s refund was directly deposited into their bank account in 7-10 days.

Who used our Tax Prep Program?

  • 494 clients came this year, and
  • Over 70% are employed:
    • 44% work full-time and another 30% work part-time

Yet,
$22,202 – was the Average Adjusted Gross Income of all the clients, with 40% earning less than $20,000!

Also,
74% are women
About 25% of our clients have children
71% of our clients are between the 25 and 54 years old.

We’re proud to help so many hard-working women, men and families get a total of over $400,000 in tax refunds!  And we were able to do it because of our dedicated and trained volunteers and staff.

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Seeing the Other Side~Al Ver El Otro Lado~ 眼看著其他方

CarrotsEach Monday morning our Food Pantry for Immigrant Families serves upwards of 200 families.  We welcome the long line of Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipina/o, Latina/o and other ethnic groups, offering them food assistance and other support services.

Recognizing the diverse populations we serve, the Food Pantry aims to create a cross-cultural understanding among our clients.  In this way, we hope to nurture a sense of mutual support and community development. The two largest groups we see are Chinese and Latina/o.  Among these groups in particular, the Food Pantry has seen a number of conflicts that stem from cultural misconceptions, or general lack of understanding.  This has resulted in resentment, prejudice, bias, and even fighting.  To address this issue, we hosted a Cultural Awareness workshop for many of the volunteers at the Food Pantry who are also clients.

Sponsored by NICOS Chinese Health Coalition, a San Francisco coalition of health care organizations that works to enhance the health and well-being of the SF Chinese, theonions workshop was facilitated in three languages and participants were challenged to look beyond the surface to relate to one another despite language and cultural differences.  Clients engaged in discussion about the dynamics of power & authority, service & community and culture & humility, led by Ina Moon.

One of the activities was a role play, where two volunteers had to work together without words.  One person had a bag with various objects, the other was trying to get a specific object from the bag.  Somehow, they had to try to understand each other, which became rather difficult.  After, they realized that this may be the reality for many of the Food Pantry clients, where language barriers can create misunderstanding and tension.  Another activity, called “What’s the Right Way,” brought attention to each individual’s own upbringing, and how their immediate surroundings, including family, friends and community, contributed to their perspectives and demeanor today.

After the workshop, the volunteers were much more comfortable providing services to the Food Pantry participants.  Before the training, individual differences had become generalized as cultural ones. Now, volunteers make more of an effort to understand the context for conflict, considering the individual and cultural perspective the other may have, applesand that they themselves may have.

While the Food Pantry still has its share of ongoing challenges, the Cultural Awareness training helped to bridge some of the gaps between participants.  If you know someone who speaks Chines/Cantonese and is eager to help the community, please contact me at Acacia@womensbuilding.org.

Acacia Woods-Chan, Food Pantry Coordinator

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The Women’s Building Volunteer Spotlight: Ingrid Yau

 

20130319_105624Ingrid Yau joined The Women’s Building (TWB) in January 2013. Since then, she has been such an amazing addition to both our staff and volunteer team.

Ingrid has been a reliable tax preparer at our Free Volunteer Income Tax program (VITA) and served as one of our administrative assistants. She provided assistance in appointment scheduling and customer service to hundreds of low income individuals and families. We all appreciate Ingrid’s support, sweetness, and grounded way of doing tough work. She’s a gem! Read more about Ingrid’s involvement with the Women’s Building’s VITA program below:

Who is Ingrid Yau?  I was born and raised in Hong Kong and I came to the United States to pursue a higher education. I want to try as many things as possible now that I am young. I’m currently studying a master degree in accountancy at San Francisco State University.

What inspired you to volunteer at TWB?  The first time I heard about the Women’s building was at school. A senior student told me about the valuable experience that she gained from volunteering at TWB preparing taxes. My short term goal is to become a CPA and work in the taxation field. I believed that volunteering as a Tax preparer at TWB would give me the opportunity to strength my skills, my career, and most importantly help the low-income community of San Francisco.

What have you gained with your involvement at the TWB?  VITA at The Women’s Building has provided me the opportunity to truly learn about taxation field from a real-world perspective. By working with clients face-to-face and making phone calls to clients, I learned how to communicate with people more effectively. Moreover, it allowed me to apply knowledge learned in the classroom to real life scenarios. There is always a difference between learning theories and calculation to actually applying them in the real world. Volunteering at TWB helped to reinforce the concepts learned in class.

How do you think your involvement with VITA at TWB will impact your professional life?  The major impact was to reaffirm my interest in being an accountant. Preparing taxes to individuals gave me invaluable insight into whether or not the taxation industry is the right career choice for me. It also gave me a chance to develop and build skills. Learning new skills and enhancing the skills that I have already had through volunteering will definitely help me in future career opportunities and future application processes.

What piece of advice would you share with new volunteers or community members who are interested in supporting The Women’s Building VITA site?  Don’t be shy to participate in VITA at TWB. The more you get involved, the more you learn! I always learn something new while I am helping people out.

What do you enjoy the most about volunteering at The Women’s Building?  I love the fact that everyone in the VITA team helps each other out. Every time when I encounter difficulties or problems when filing taxes, my team-mates helped me out.

Can you share one fun fact about yourself?  I’m the youngest in my family and my dad is always very excited to know that I will start working soon.

~Ingrid interviewed by Lorena Eulogio, Logistics Coordinator

 

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One Billion Rising And The Violence Against Women Act

1br-logo-web

Enough Is Enough!

In response to atrocious conditions of women (and others), One Billion Rising is kicking off a dancing REVOLUTION, this February 14th!

 The idea of One Billion Rising started in August 2012 by Eve Ensler, V-Day creator.  She was working with women surviving extreme gender violence in the Congo when she decided to take a stand against  US Rep. Todd Akin’s remark on “legitimate rape”. According to Todd “pregnancy rarely occurs from legitimate rape.” Hey Todd did you know that one out of every three women in the world will be raped or beaten in her lifetime? How legitimate is that?  That is one billion around the WORLD! And to the Republican Cathrynn Brown of New Mexico who recently introduced a bill that would charge a survivor of rape with a third-degree felony for for tampering with evidence, in other words for CHOOSING. This year, ONE BILLION will RISE.

 This Valentine’s Day join all the women, men and gender queer folks in 196 countries in rising in joy as we say no to violence against women. And for those of you who would like to not only shake your hips, let’s make homemade eco-friendly valentines to those Senators who will be voting soon on The Violence Against Women Act. We can all support the renewal of our own country’s Violence Against Women Act and the expanded protection for Native American women, (a provision that would allow American Indian women assaulted on reservations by non-Indians to go to tribal courts, which have no jurisdiction over assailants who do not live on Indian land), gays, lesbians, transgender people.  For more information, please visit the sites below.

http://www.onebillionrising.org/                                           

Support VAWA as it goes up for the vote in the house!

http://4vawa.org/                                               

Factsheet: The Violence Against Women Act

http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/vawa_factsheet.pdf

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Three Organizations Find Great Meaning in the Maestra Peace Mural

The Women’s Building Maestra Peace Muralwomens_building_mural-1 is a piece of public art in which women have found inspiration. This magnificent mural portrays images of women from across the world and throughout time.  It presents historical events not found in most textbooks and proclaims, with vivid colors, the great women who stood against tremendous odds and are symbols of resilience.   Maestra Peace hugs two sides of the four-story building where ten nonprofit organizations are housed–all working to empower, educate, and demand justice for women and girls.  Three of the ten organizations recently shared their thoughts about the image in the mural that was particularly meaningful to their own work: CODEPINK: Women for Peace, San Francisco Women Against Rape (SFWAR), and Mujeres Unidas y Activas (MUA).

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Women, Education, and Technology: From Jordan to the Mission District

2012_solar_mamasLast month, the Women’s Building was invited to be part of a panel discussion as part of the San Francisco Public Library’s Community Film Screening of Solar Mamas.  The documentary followed a rural Jordanian woman’s experience at Barefoot College where she trained to become a Solar Engineer. Her experience of learning solar panel manufacturing and installation raised many issues in regards to marginalized women and technology–issues similar to those we see in our work with immigrant Latina women who use our Community Resource Room (CRR) Technology Lab.
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