EAST STROUDSBURG — Imagine moving to another country, not knowing the language, not knowing the area, and just needing a little help to get your feet on the ground. That is the case for thousands of immigrants who legally come to this country every year, many of them planting roots right here in northeastern and central Pennsylvania.
There is an organization that sets out to help these families. As part of Hispanic Heritage Month, 16 salutes the Latino American Alliance of Northeastern Pennsylvania
The organization helps thousands of Latinos who come to this country legally for a better life, immigrants who find work, learn English, and become independent.
It seems like a simple task, sitting on the computer, and surfing the web.
But for many people who come to the Latino American Alliance of Northeastern Pennsylvania in Monroe County, it is something many will do for the first time in their lives.
“At first when you get here, you find yourself in another world, and you think you won’t be able to achieve anything,” said Zoraida Pirela of East Stroudsburg through a translator.
Zoraida Pirela and her husband Jose speak English but feel more comfortable telling their story in their native language. For them, the road has been long and hard. Both came from Venezuela at different times. Jose came first, 17 years ago, while Zoraida stayed behind with their two children.
Today, they say with the help of organizations like the Latino American Alliance or LAANEPA, they are able to have a better life and give their children a great education.
“I feel good, thank God, I feel good, to be Latino in this county. I don’t feel in any way discriminated against,” said Jose Pirela.
“Always the dream, to immigrate to this country because you look at it like a marvelous world, of many things, a place where you can achieve many things for yourself and your family,” Zoraida said.
“This country is for those who come here to work. I came to the United States to work. I didn’t come here to take work from anyone, I came to build my own small empire,” said Leonardo Columbus of Stroudsburg.
The Latino American Alliance of Northeastern Pennsylvania’s mission statement is to enhance the quality of life for all people in the region, not just specifically Latinos.
“When someone comes to the area, and they are limited-English proficient for example, we get them to the services they need, get them employed, get them to pay taxes, get them to teach their children to be self-sufficient and to be contributors to the community. There is an economic impact to the work that we do,” said LAANEPA president Pedro Anes.
And volunteers say you have to always give back.
“I’ve been there, and it feels good to find someone that can give you a hand, when you feel that there is no help for you,” said volunteer Patricia Aparicio.
One case manager says the negative stereotypes are out there, but the organization is working to change that.
“The stereotypes are Latinos are trying to beat the system. They don’t want to work. They want everything handed to them, but the reality is the clients that come in, are here because they want to work, and they just get so desperate,” said Johanna Ortegon.
You can give back at the LAANEPA Community Awards and Appreciation Breakfast on October 15 at Mount Airy Casino from 7 to 9 a.m.
For more information, click here.