(This article was published in the Spring 2014 issue of Micah Mandate - written by Autumn Woodard.)
Since Ray Abreu moved to the United States in 1993, she has been aware that being from a different culture and speaking a different language can make life in America difficult.
Her dream was to help people in her sit- uation, but she never imagined being a student at Trevecca would mean taking a project for a class about non-profit management and turning it into an actual non-profit organization.
Abreu, a senior social justice major, is now the executive director of La Familia Resource Center, an organization in Madison, Tenn. that serves the growing Hispanic population just north of Nashville.
Abreu took her class assignment seriously and researched and proposed an organization that would help meet the needs of Hispanic families.
After turning in her proposal, Iris Gordon, Abreu’s professor, arranged for her to have an office and some office support on campus to actually launch La Familia.
“Ray’s understanding of community issues and commitment to action was impressive,” Gordon said. “She is demonstrative of the passion and commitment required to sustain a leader’s focus and determination when launching a new organization.”
Soon, Abreu was given some office space and other start-up resources she needed.
“I had a dream a long time ago,” Abreu said. “But I never thought they would say ‘Oh, okay. We’re going to give you an office and you can open the business in June’.”
The J.V. Morsch Center for Social Justice tries to cre- ate an environment for students to explore and practice applying their talents to solving real-world problems, Gordon said.
In addition to teaching courses, Gordon also oversees the Neighborhood Empowerment Program (NEP) at Trevecca which offers services to non-profits in the community.
“Incubating the launch of La Familia provides an exciting opportunity for the NEP to serve our diverse community while continuing to equip and develop a talented social justice student,” Gordon said.
La Familia has since set up operations at Bethel His- panic Church of the Nazarene. On any given day Abreu and her small team of volunteers might be found translat- ing resumes, offering English classes or helping clients find jobs they are qualified for.
“I know the struggle of the Hispanic population,” Abreu said. “I see here in Tennessee that they lack resources for the Hispanic community.”
Over the summer, Bethel and La Familia celebrated their new partnership with a festival filled with Latin music and food, yard sales and a bouncy house for kids. They also offered a free clinic on new immigration laws by a local immigration attorney.
The Center for Social Justice at Trevecca also donated 150 backpacks filled with school supplies that were given to children at the festival.
In December, La Familia partnered with the Center at Trevecca to provide toys and food for 10 families for Christmas.
While Abreu wants to offer job and education support to families, she also is committed to teaching her clients about her faith. She offers Bible studies because of her belief that building a successful life in America is based on three things: God, family and education.
It’s a plan that is working, Gordon said.
“Due to Ray’s servant leadership, La Familia has proven fruitful even during the start-up stage of development,” she said.
For more information, visit http://www.lafamilia-nashville.org