Making a Difference

Helping Clients Move Ahead

The true measure of success for MAPS is not just our own accomplishments in numbers served, programs provided or community recognition. It is also revealed in the accomplishments our clients have made as they overcome the obstacles that life presents.

Forging Partnerships

MAPS has established relationships with many other community organizations, businesses, government agencies and key community leaders. These partnerships help to ensure that Portuguese speakers have a continuum of services available to meet their needs. By pooling our resources, we also increase project impact, save precious resources, share knowledge and promote cross-cultural harmony.

Advocating for Clients and Communities

The agency consistently publicizes issues that are important to Portuguese speakers, both within and outside our communities. This includes regular contact with broadcast and print media, information on our Website and in our newsletter, cable television shows, community outreach, and government advocacy at the local, state and federal levels. We also advocate for immigrant rights and enhanced funding for culturally and linguistically competent health and social services, as well as ESOL and citizenship education. And, on a more individual level, our staff members share equally in the joy and pain of community members who need many kinds of assistance as they face language, cultural and economic barriers to education, health and social services. Here are some of their stories:

Filipe and family at his 7th birthday celebration!

Filipe and family at his 7th birthday celebration! (Wolff Family Photo)

In early 2012, MAPS began a long-term commitment to help Filipe Wolff, a young Brazilian boy battling cancer and liver disease. Filipe was just three years old when his parents and a group of friends first approached us, and he suffered from a variety of related conditions that kept him going in and out of the hospital. Filipe’s parents, Guilherme and Évelyn, along with the Juntos Por Filipe/Together With Filipe Campaign, sought MAPS’ assistance to raise and manage funds to help cover the enormous medical costs of his care, including the liver transplant that he desperately needed.

In September 2015, Filipe celebrated his 7th birthday with his family. One month later, on October 8th, another celebration took place–for the two-year anniversary of his successful liver transplant!

MAPS helped the campaign raise close to $130,000 in donations from caring community members in a little more than a year. We tracked these funds separately to cover Filipe’s medically related costs. Once our MAPS Case Worker was able to get Filipe enrolled in a health insurance plan that pays most of his medical costs, MAPS stopped collecting new donations.

Finally, in October of 2013, Filipe was stable and strong enough to receive the gift his father had been waiting to give him–part of his own liver.

“Since the successful liver transplant at Massachusetts General Hospital, it has been our delight to see Filipe blossom into a much healthier and growing child who can for the most part lead a normal and happy life,” said MAPS Executive Director Paulo Pinto, MPA.

Filipe continues to face some serious health challenges and still needs a bone marrow transplant, but so far no match has been found. The Icla da Silva Foundation is actively searching for a marrow donor. Anyone between the ages of 18 and 44 interested in being registered as a potential donor can contact the Foundation at www.icla.org.

Thanks to Filipe’s health insurance coverage, $96,940 remained in the MAPS Filipe Wolff Campaign Account as of Sept. 30, 2015, out of the $128,470 MAPS helped raise between February 2012 and May 2013. The remaining funds will continue to be used to pay Filipe’s monthly health insurance premiums, co-pays, and any other costs related to his care as long as he needs assistance.

“MAPS has pledged to the Wolff Family, and to the community which has so generously come forward to help him, that any funds not required for Filipe’s care and related essential costs will be transferred into a MAPS Endowment Fund once Filipe is completely healthy,” Pinto said. “Those additional funds will be safeguarded and used to assist other seriously ill children from the Portuguese-speaking community.”

Becoming a citizen marks the ultimate level of the immigrant experience. It not only empowers the new citizens, but all of our communities as well. Roberto Pirola found that out when he looked for assistance at MAPS. Eleven years after arriving in the United States, coming from the Southern city of Criciúma, in Brazil, he had met all the requirements to apply for the American citizenship, and scheduled an appointment with Paula Bronzoni, Immigrant Integration Case Worker at the MAPS Brighton Office.

“I needed help to fill out all the paperwork. Paula gave me incredible support and helped me every step of the way,” he said.

After filling out all the documents, Pirola signed up for Citizenship Preparation classes at the MAPS Somerville office – but couldn’t attend them!

“I have a night job making deliveries for a sandwich shop, and I couldn’t find anyone to replace me on the nights I had classes,” he said.

That didn’t make him give up on learning American History, Civics and English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). So as soon as another class started, Pirola was quick to enroll.

“Our instructor, Eduarda Alves, was amazing! She answered all my questions and made me feel so confident. If I hadn’t taken these classes, I wouldn’t have been able to make it and pass the test,” said the new American citizen.

Pirola was sworn in soon after, and has already referred a friend to seek citizenship application assistance and classes at MAPS!

Maria Matos

Maria Matos, who supervises the MAPS Immigrant Integration Services Programs, recalls a Brazilian family she helped when they fell five months behind in their rent. The landlord called Maria, hoping to avoid evicting them. It turned out that their daughter was very ill and, due to her constant care, both parents were not working.

“After informing the landlord of what this family was going through, he decided not to go through with the eviction. Instead, he just wanted me to keep him informed of the client’s situation and assistance if any that the family could receive,” says Maria, who also helped the family get assistance from Catholic Charities, the Somerville Homeless Coalition, Family to Family and other community organizations to get them through the crisis.

“The sadness of this success story is that their daughter passed away,” she adds. “It has been very hard for the parents to cope with their loss, but they are so thankful for everything that the city of Somerville has done for them. It only took a phone call to make a difference to this family’s housing situation. To me, that is very rewarding.”

Our Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault case workers face many challenges every day, helping struggling clients to overcome the abuse they’ve suffered and to start a new, safe life. It’s a very difficult and demanding task, but also extremely necessary and rewarding. Every single life we are able to save is a tremendous victory.

Writing straight from the heart, one former client expressed how important MAPS had been to her, and how much her life has changed since she found us.

“I owe you so much for helping me overcome the obstacles I was facing,” she said. “The support group was fundamental to my recovery because that was when I learned to leave the abuses in the past and start living in the present.

“You were always by my side. I will never forget your support. I walked into your office that day and my life had never been the same ever since. I pray to God to keep on giving you the wisdom to help those women that come to you in despair, so that they will find the words of comfort you had always had for me. Maybe you don’t know how much better you make us all feel.”

A candlelight vigil for domestic violence victims and survivors

One day a desperate young woman arrived at the MAPS Lowell office. A Portuguese-speaking immigrant with a small baby, medical problems, no job and no work authorization, she had recently separated from her abusive American husband. The Alien Relative immigration petition her husband had filed for her was denied by immigration authorities because she missed an interview while in the hospital and sent information about her changed living situation to the wrong INS address. She faced possible deportation in addition to her other problems.

The Lowell Immigrant Integration Services Case Worker, along with a local Portuguese-speaking attorney, immediately set to work straightening out the client’s immigration status. She also helped the woman set up medical appointments, get Food Stamps for her baby, and connect with other services. Both mother and child began to thrive. The government approved the client’s petition for legal residency, clearing the way for her to get a job and start her new life in the US.