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Project Return Peer Support Network
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Altruism as a way of life: Tina's Journey

Altruism as a way of life: Tina's Journey | Project Return Peer Support Network

Tina goes beyond her role as an Employment and Resource Specialist to provide holistic support to monolingual Spanish speakers. She addresses their needs in employment, housing, mental and physical health, insurance, resume writing, and connects them to specialized advocacy services like immigration support. She does this because her job dedication is deeply rooted in her personal experiences and commitment to the community.

Tina sees herself as an equal to those she serves, sharing in their journey without any sense of hierarchy. This approach allows her to connect deeply and empathetically with her clients, understanding their challenges and successes on a personal level.

“Being a peer has helped me relate to the individuals that we serve on their level, at their level, because my title does not bring me above or below anybody else,” Tina said.

One of Project Return’s core values is the concept of Mutuality, “Regardless of our job title, we are all equal and thus treat each other with dignity and respect. We respect the validity of every individual’s experiences, thoughts, opinions, and feelings, even if they are different from our own.”

Growing up in a tough environment where drug and alcohol use was normalized, Tina didn't initially recognize it as a problem or illness. Her family often went without essential resources because her mother was unaware of the available community support. This lack of awareness and access to resources had a profound impact on Tina, fueling her passion for community support work. She initially went to school to study liberal arts but then transitioned to drug and alcohol studies which eventually led her to a career focused on mental health. Working with a population that mirrored her own opened her eyes to the wealth of free support services available in the community. Discovering this "pot of gold" of resources was a game-changer, inspiring her to help others tap into these invaluable services and pass them along to those she was serving.

“Programs like El Centrito de Apoyo and Un Paso Mas provide a safe haven and vital resources to the community. Whether through mental health support groups, food banks, knitting classes, or karaoke sessions, these programs create a sense of community. Many individuals served are longing for connections with others who understand their experiences, and these programs fulfill that need,” Tina said.

Tina's work has led to numerous success stories. Just recently she helped a gentleman secure a position at Cal State Long Beach, where he started working on April 1st. Another success story involves a gentleman hired immediately at Foster Farms, Starting at a wage of $24 an hour. Tina also collaborates with a temp agency, and out of the 30-40 people she has referred, only five have returned, demonstrating the effectiveness of her support in helping individuals secure stable employment.

Tina's role at PRPSN's El Centrito de Apoyo is more than a job; it's a mission to uplift and empower the monolingual Spanish-speaking community. By providing comprehensive support and fostering a sense of community, Tina helps individuals improve their quality of life and achieve their goals.

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Michaella Huck

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