Founder Nadia Gomez said, “We’ve done so much in a short time, and HABLA will continue to grow.”
The not-for-profit organization is comprised of students of all majors and faculty members. The group provides migrant workers with free English classes. In addition, members volunteer as translators for Spanish-speaking patients at the Shands Craniofacial clinic Mother and Baby Unit, and tutor English as a Second Language, ESI, to students at Westwood Middle School.
“We’ve seen an increase in the number of Hispanic Families in this area, ” Gomez said. “Many of these are migrant workers who need help with their doctor visits among other healthcare concerns.”
The club’s president Karine Pena, said that it is important to not only help the families but also to equip them with English skills so that they become independent and self-sufficient.
That’s why the organization decided to launch its free language class program to the migrant families to teach them basic survival phrases.
“We car pool out to the farms to give the classes to as many as four families, plus the kids, ” pena said.
The members sometimes drive 30 miles out of Gainesville to reach the farms. Now they conduct classes at the Newberry Branch Library for the biweekly classes, which meet Wednesdays and Thursdays.
“Our teachers are really dedicates,” Gerardo a farmworker and a student in the advanced class, said. “They carpool every Wednesday and Thursday and bring us the service. it is very convenient for us because we get off work at 5 p.m., go home and shower and make it to class by 6 p.m. I really admire our teachers, they motivate us to learn.”
The class sometimes has different sections for advanced and beginner students depending on who show up for the sessions. The students take their class very seriously and many have never missed a session.
HABLA provides its own instructional materials by finding old textbooks and making photocopies of lessons.
“We need money for books, more than anything,” said Juan Medina, the club’s vice-president. “It gets to be expensive when you add up gas costs and supplies.”
Although there are bilingual employees at Shands, many of them have other jobs and responsibilities. Translating is not their main job; they are pulled in as needed to translate for patients.
The organization’s founders saw a need for translators and soon after a lot of hard work, HABLA was born.
Now less than a year later, the members said they have developed relationships with their students and families. Many times the club tries to keep the same translator assigned to specific family so they are comfortable. Pena said she gets calls from the families about others language questions like car insurance forms.
“When many of our own families came to this country, we couldn’t speak English which made even the simplest things very hard,” she said. “I feel that I can now give back to my community right here locally, give help that I wished I would have had.”
Maria, a woman from the beginners’ class, who is in a family of migrant workers, said the work of the HABLA volunteers is paying off, “I am more confident in conversations at work and around the community. I can even take my daughter to the doctor by myself now.”
Ashley Cisneros is a co-founder of Chatter Buzz Media, an Orlando Internet marketing firm that helps companies and organizations engage with their target markets through inbound marketing via the Internet. Chatter Buzz Media, which won the Social Madness competition for the Orlando small business market, is a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in website design, search engine optimization (SEO), social media marketing and content creation. Prior to founding Chatter Buzz, Ashley worked as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, technical writer, marketing manager, public relations practitioner and freelance journalist. To see Ashley’s content writing, visit www.ashleycisneros.com. You can also reach Ashley on her Google profile.