German Figueroa, Trabajadores Unidos de Washington, D.C.

My name is German Figueroa, a sophomore studying psychology in the College of Arts and Science at American University. This semester I enrolled in an amazing sociology course called Views of the Global South by professor Susan McDonic. In this class we study countries in the south part of the globe and how the imperialist period and globalization impacted that area of the world. This encouraged me to take part in the Community Service Learning Program (CSLP) where I would volunteer with a non-profit as a way to better learn the material for the class. The non-profit I decided to work with is called Trabajadores Unidos de Washington DC which means Workers United of Washington DC, whose goal is to advocate for undocumented day labor in DC. I connected it to this class because the majority of the day labors come from places like Honduras and Guatemala which are places in the global south.

My role in the site is to help Arturo Griffin the founder of the non-profits with site visits and educational projects. My expectation going in was to hear stories of how they came to this country to achieve a better living standard, in other words, to hear that the American dream was something that everyone could achieve. I was wrong; not only did I learn how neglected these people are but that they are being taken advantage of. Just a week ago, I spent 4 hours at a demonstration that Trabajadores Unidos was participating in because a woman that has been working for Wholes Food for 15 years was wrongly fire. Another example of the obstacle we confront on a daily is the day labor not getting paid after completing the job, this happens because a majority of them do not speak English or know the law.

In my Views of the Global South class, we analyze things such as how countries fall into something called the Dependency Theories, which makes it impossible for those countries to catch up with other industrial powers. While in the class I connect the dots and assumed I had a clear understanding for the reason any of the people would want to leave their countries. I was wrong once more, there was a lot I didn’t know about this. To actually hear the sacrifices people had to make in order to come into this country from the first person narrative was extremely powerful. This experience has reaffirmed my desires to want to stay in DC even after I graduate and run for the local offices in DC. It also reminds me of my experience in DC Reads another non-profit that workers with underprivileged community providing reading help. Here we learn of the inefficiency of the public school in DC just like the day labor is a problem of representation in our national government. This is two different or non-profit in DC yet they seem to share a lot of the same problems.

After this year semester, I will continue to volunteer with Trabajadores Unidos because there’s a lot of work to be done and as a person who was not born in the United States this experience has exposed my own bias and privilege. I want to help fix my backyard.

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