UW School of Social Work E-news
February 2010  |  Return to issue home

Elizabeth 'Liz' Mendez, MSW '06, Passionate Volunteer

Liz Mendez
Liz Mendez

Volunteer activity:
Vice president, Casa Latina board of directors

Organization's mission:
To empower Latino immigrants through educational and employment opportunities. To increase the employable skills of day laborers through education and organization, and to build community and increase leadership in the Latino day laborer population.

How long a volunteer for this agency:
About a year and a half.

Why these activities?
I recognize my privilege and all the other benefits that come with being a healthy, educated American. It's really easy to serve people when you share a common background. Coming from an immigrant family myself, I can appreciate the struggles recent immigrants face to support their families with few resources and multiple obstacles. When I graduated from the UW School of Social Work three years ago, I wanted to serve Latino families and stay connected to the Seattle nonprofit community. When the opportunity to join the Casa Latina board arose, I jumped at the chance.

A memorable experience while volunteering:
Seeing Casa Latina realize its dream of opening its own building in the Central District after 15 years of hard work by an incredibly dedicated staff was very powerful. For years, Casa Latina served workers out of a few trailers with limited access to running water in Belltown. On the flip side, it's been difficult to help lead the organization and see our families struggle amid these tough financial times. Limited funding has translated to limited programs and opportunities for our constituents. Also, with fewer day labor jobs available, it's become even harder for workers to feed their families.

Satisfaction in volunteering:
I am proud to play a role in the direction of one of the most well-established grass-roots direct service organizations in Seattle. I love hearing day laborers' success stories and seeing them become community organizers.

February 2010  |  Return to issue home