Mabel Bejar: August 2011
Mabel Bajer tells us why she enjoys being a volunteer at CUNY Citizenship Now!:
Q. Why did you choose to volunteer with CUNY Citizenship Now?
A. "I chose Citizenship Now! because they make it really easy for someone to get involved. I had been looking for volunteer opportunities for a while but couldn’t find one that fit with my schedule and experience level."
Q. Which aspects of our events do you find particularly enjoyable?
A. "I really enjoy dealing directly with clients and helping them navigate the immigration process. Also, the events are very well organized and the people are very friendly. I feel very welcomed."
Q. Because of the Volunteer Corps, do you feel that your knowledge and relationship to the immigrant community and the challenges they face has improved?
A. "As an immigrant myself, I am very familiar with the immigrant experience in general. Volunteering with CUNY Citizenship Now! has also helped me become more familiar with the problems faced by the diverse New York immigrant community. For example, the needs of long-term residents trying to become citizens are very different from more recent immigrants. I also see a lot of misinformation about the law and the rights of immigrants. Just the other day, I had to assure a lady that she could access mental health services without fear that her employer might find out about it and fire her."
Q. In what ways has volunteering with Citizenship Now! impacted you, personally?
A. "It has made me more confident about my decision to pursue an immigration law career because I see there is a real need for advocacy."
Q. Tell us about yourself.
A. "I was born in Lima, Peru. My family moved to Los Angeles, California when I was 17. I lived in Los Angeles for many years, and I relocated to New York City about 6 years ago."
Q. What did you study when you were in school?
A. "I majored in political science, with an emphasis on international relations. I later decided to go to law school."
Q. What does community mean for you?
A. "A community is a safe and nurturing environment where people can socially interact and help one another."
Q. What is your favorite hobby/interest outside of volunteering?
A. "I dance Argentine tango. Two years ago, I volunteered to learn tango for a fundraiser for the Urban Justice Center. Volunteers took classes for about two months with a tango instructor and at the end participated in a little competition. After that, I was hooked! New York has a big tango scene. Every night of the week there are at least 2 to 3 tango parties, as well as many schools and instructors."