For Valeria Gonzalez, volunteering is an integral part of her life. After working with children in rural communities in her native Mexico, Valeria sought similar work when she moved to the U.S.
“I liked helping kids with fewer resources,” she said. “After finding Make-A-Wish online, and watching videos of wish stories, it really touched my heart. The impact you can have on a family and on a kid when they are having a tough time is really extraordinary.”
Now, in between her job at Microsoft and other commitments, Valeria volunteers for Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington. Her Spanish fluency has enabled her to work with many Latino families in our community.
“It’s a way of giving back to people from my country,” she said.
Valeria says Latin culture is all about family and giving. On one of her first wishes, the wish family opened their home to Valeria for a tamale dinner; they even brought her back a gift from their trip.
“The families really embrace you into their homes,” she said. “It makes me feel like I have family here.”
With numerous Latino families with children qualified for a wish, Make-A-Wish hopes to recruit more Spanish speaking volunteers. Valeria believes her similar background enhances the wish experience for these families.
“I think for the family, it’s easier because they can relate to you,” she said. “You speak Spanish, you know the culture. The fact that you can relate makes them feel more comfortable. It makes it easier to make the wish come true.”
And for those who are unsure if they have the time to spare, Valeria assures them it is doable.
“In a week, I do four to five hours in between emails and visits,” she said. “And you work on a team, so it’s not that much time; you can do it in your lunch time at work.”
Plus, she says, the reward is well worth it.
“Giving them a good time, good memories, and someone to be a support for them … it’s something that will stay in your heart forever,” she said. “Wishes give me more than I give them.”
Make-A-Wish Alaska and Washington is in need of Spanish-speaking volunteers in Eastern Washington. To learn more or to sign up, visit the Volunteer section.