Holistic Advocacy: Social Services Volunteer Assists at JDC Legal Clinics

E-AileenThe Justice & Diversity Center’s Willie Shain recently sat down with Elizabeth Aileen, a volunteer at JDC’s monthly Legal Advice and Referral Clinic (LARC). Originally from San Diego, Aileen moved to the Bay Area where she earned her Master’s Degree in Social Work. She is a social worker at the San Francisco VA Medical Center.

William Shain (WS): What are some rewards of volunteering?

Elizabeth Aileen (EA): I love volunteering at JDC because there is a sense of community and friendship.  I enjoy seeing my fellow social work volunteers every month and I also enjoy interacting with clients and helping them.

WS: What made you want to get involved with JDC?

EA: I’m considering going to law school and I thought [volunteering with JDC] was a great opportunity to use the skills I already have and to see how lawyers work with the population I’m already familiar with.

WS: Can you think of one case or volunteering experience that surprised you or was challenging/interesting?

EA: Because I work with a similar population, I haven’t been particularly surprised with the challenges that our clients face.  But, it has been interesting to work with the immigrant population, since I’ve never done that before.

WS: What made it interesting?

EA: My parents are immigrants to this country, but I find it amazing that immigrants in San Francisco have to deal with the same issues as other low-income/marginalized individuals, as well as immigration issues, such as new laws in a new country, and adjusting to a city as large as San Francisco.

WS: Tell us about a client that you helped at a recent clinic.

EA: One particular client had questions regarding housing, so we were able to give him some resources. As social workers, we never know how our clients are going to utilize resources, but we hope we’ve given them enough information and tools to be able to go out there and advocate for themselves.

WS: What are some of your professional goals and how does volunteering fit into the larger picture you have of your life?

EA: Professionally, I am looking to expand my skills, grow in my field, and move into some type of management.  I am still considering going into law school (probably public interest, elder law or mental health law). Volunteering at JDC has given me the opportunity to continue contributing to my community, as well as looking towards my future goals.

WS: What are your hobbies and interests outside of social work?

EA: I enjoy singing and take voice lessons. I love reading and I facilitate a monthly book club with a friend. I am also a weekly volunteer dog walker with PAWS (Pets Are Wonderful Support).  PAWS helps to support individuals diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, dementia, and mental health issues who have pets and need assistance.

To learn more about JDC’s holistic approach, email probono@sfbar.org.