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.
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:
Thais Neiva, left, with Komen for the Cure's Jeanette Beltran and MAPS Women's Health Educator Dulce Almeida at the Komen Race for the Cure 2008.
Thais Neiva, MAPS Breast Cancer Prevention Coordinator, tells this story:
“When I started working for the MAPS Breast Cancer Prevention Program, I didn’t know how important this issue was. But as I learned more and understood the importance of prevention and, as a woman, the importance of taking care of our health, I realized how critical it was for me not only to educate myself about the subject, but to help educate others.
“Susan G. Komen for the Cure provided me great resources and information that prepared me to educate the Portuguese-speaking community. The Komen Massachusetts Affiliate provides MAPS with funding to educate our population about breast cancer prevention and connect women to medical screenings, mammograms and other key resources.
“The MAPS Breast Cancer Prevention Program and Susan G. Komen for the Cure provide critical resources to the target population. We’re able to make critical information and support available to the target population in a culturally and linguistically appropriate manner. I’m very proud to be working for MAPS and the Susan G. Komen in such an important cause.”
Maria Matos, who supervises the Boston area Immigrant Social Services Programs, recalls a Brazilian family she helped this year when they fell five months behind in their rent. The landlord called Maria, hoping to avoid evicting them. It turned out that their 18-year-old 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.”
It was 4:30 pm one day when Domestic Violence Program Advocate Martha Vasconcellos received a call from a Brazilian woman who lived in Brighton. She had been beaten and sexually assaulted by her partner boyfriend after an argument. She was scared to death. The woman, who spoke no English, was on the street and had nowhere to go. Martha, who was working that day at the Family Justice Center in Boston, one of MAPS’ major partners for Domestic Violence Prevention. She invited the woman to meet her there, and they went together to the Boston Police station to report the incident and seek assistance. With their help, the abusive boyfriend was located by 7:30 pm. He was arrested and later deported to Brazil. Meanwhile, Martha’s client was approved for a U-Visa, a special type of visa for domestic violence victims, and Martha continued to help her deal with other issues in her life.
Alice Fernandes at Suffolk
Like many immigrants, Alice Fernandes came to the US from Cape Verde at age 13, knowing very little English, leaving most of her friends and family behind. At 17, she was getting ready to attend college at Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania with a full scholarship. She was at the top of her high school class in Boston and was a key member of the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) Dorchester Youth Program’s Peer Leadership Program for several years, helping other Cape Verdean kids adjust to their new countries and learn positive life skills. Alice and another MAPS Youth Program participant, 17-year-old Mircea de Veiga, were among a number of youth invited as guest speakers at the Jan. 2004 Young American Conference at Suffolk University. The youth spoke on issues like the MCAS, bilingual education, and the obstacles faced by immigrant youth.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. A year after Alice, Mircea was accepted at Bryn Mawr as well!
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 the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) 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 Social 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. INS approved the client’s petition for legal residency, clearing the way for her to get a job and start her new life in the U.S.
When the Fidelis family first came here from Santa Catarina, Brazil in 1998, they spoke no English. Odair Fidelis, his
pregnant wife, Martinha, and their two children shared a studio apartment with another person, sleeping on clothing laid
on the floor. Odair was working hard but not being paid properly, and 9-year-old Artur was unable to walk or speak much
because of physical disabilities. His mother carried him on her back until she became too ill due to complications from
The Fidelis family with Paulo Pinto, United Way Pres. & CEO Marian Heard, and others at the United Way of Mass. Bay Courage Award ceremony on January 24, 2003.
With the help of the Massachusetts Alliance of Portuguese Speakers (MAPS) and other Boston-area health and social service providers, the Fidelises were able to greatly improve their work and living situations, get medical care and help for their son, learn English and establish themselves in their new community of Everett. In 2003, the United Way of Massachusetts Bay honored the Fidelis family with its Courage Award during United Way’s Annual Meeting and Campaign Celebration in Boston.
“Because of United Way, we were able to connect this family with the many resources they needed,” said Paulo Pinto,
MAPS Executive Director.
They are elderly, one nearly blind and both beset with chronic illnesses. Until recently they were struggling to pay for medical bills and medication and still have enough money for food. They were isolated, did not want to ask for help, and believed that even if they did receive help, they would lose their Social Security benefits. Life was increasingly difficult. Until they met Maristela Tosato.
A MAPS Immigrant Social Services Case Worker, Maristela helped them obtain heating and grocery assistance as well as homemaker and nursing support at home. Through her efforts, they now have health and drug coverage, and also got a Life Line through Elder Services of the Merrimack Valley.
Life is still difficult for this couple, especially because of their significant health problems. But they are no longer isolated. They feel safe, cared for, and connected to the community. Because of MAPS, many agencies now support them, and, as their situation changes, Maristela will help them adjust.
Though she still helps in many ways, even translating their mail when needed, Maristela says with satisfaction, “Now they are on their own, and MAPS will always be there to help them maintain a safe and independent lifestyle.”