By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — The Diocese of Davenport’s Immigration Program works with U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents to reunite them with their immediate relatives living outside the U.S. But with immigrants speaking different languages, the Immigration Program relies on help from volunteers to assist in their mission.
Gricelda Garnica, a diocesan immigration counselor with Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) accreditation, said volunteers are an important part of their mission. “It is very difficult to communicate at times,” she said. Many clients know very little to no English. Although she speaks Spanish, many clients do not speak Spanish or English.
“We are happy to have somebody that we can count on for the translation of some documents from other languages to English for the immigration process,” Garnica said. Volunteers also can help with translation during appointments and with calls to clients. “We need volunteers to have flexible hours,” Garnica said, “to match the availability of our clients.”
Primary languages spoken by clients of the Immigration Program include Spanish, French, Vietnamese, Burmese, Arabic and Macedonian, among others.
“I am committed to bringing to the attention of the whole diocese the amazing contributions volunteers are making and the new opportunities there are for folks to be involved,” said Kent Ferris. He is the director of Social Action and Catholic Charities for the diocese.
One such volunteer who helps the Immigration Program is Marie Catherine Guyot. A newer volunteer, she moved to the Quad-City area from France last summer to join her husband who had a job transfer.
She learned of the need for volunteer assistance from Molly Wagner, who volunteers in the Davenport Diocese’s Faith Formation Department. Wagner and Guyot met in France when Wagner was living there. When she learned Guyot was moving to the Quad-Cites, Wagner encouraged Guyot to look into volunteer opportunities in the Immigration Program.
Because few of the Immigration Program’s clients speak French, Guyot does whatever she can to help. She does have translation work to do at times. “It would be great to have a pool of volunteers,” Guyot said of helping in the department.
Guyot was a project leader in France until she had her third child. Then she took time off to raise her children and do volunteer work. She has worked with people who are disabled or unemployed, done microloan work and assisted an organization comparable to Habitat for Humanity.
“I want to create links and have an inclusive attitude,” she said.
For more information about volunteering for the immigration program contact the diocese at (563) 324-1911 and ask for Gricelda Garnica or Karina Garnica.