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Stories from the Front Lines: One Year Later

July 22, 2021

Laura Jiménez-Diecks, Supervising Case Manager

Laura Jiménez-Diecks,

Soon after the pandemic began, Laura Jiménez-Diecks, Supervising Case Manager, shared a client story that spoke to the severe impact of COVID-19 on immigrant families in Marin. Now, about a year later, Laura reflects on the response effort.

There’s been such a metamorphosis over the course of the pandemic. We’ve experienced everything from fatigue, despair, sadness, and more. Not knowing when this would be over was a collective stressor. We saw it in us as workers at Canal Alliance and we saw it in clients. On top of this we had the administration waging a war against the poor. 

As a Case Manager, my responsibility was to stay as balanced as I could for my clients and I found that incredibly taxing at a time that I didn’t feel balanced myself.  

At the same time, being able to work with our clients was the one thing that kept me afloat. It gave me a sense of direction. So not only was I helping clients, clients were helping me. 

Diego is one of these clients. A year ago, I shared about the struggles Diego was facing at the onset of the pandemic. Like most clients, Diego was laid off when shelter-in-place started, and he was not re-hired. Since, however, he has been able to find full-time employment at a nearby restaurant, so he is back to earning a salary to support his wife and daughter. It has been a long road for Diego. After having been a victim of the California wildfires and the coronavirus pandemic, it looks like he is regaining stability. 

I’m in awe of how Canal Alliance was able to adapt to changing circumstances on a dime. We closed the food pantry for only one week. The fact that the agency was able to close down, reassess, and just one week later provide resources for those who are food insecure was a big motivator; knowing that we could get through the pandemic together, or at least we would do our darndest. 

This experience peppered the whole pandemic. When things were low, there were moments of hope. 

For me, my kids are home; I work full time. Last year came with many challenges, but this year we approached this new academic year more solidly. We have lunch times together which is so nice. At the beginning of the pandemic, I shifted my schedule to work from 7am to 3pm. Now I am back to working 9am to 5pm but I think we’re in a better rhythm. We’re in a better place emotionally, physically, and mentally. 

I like to approach every circumstance as a positive opportunity. Working from home, I love being able to walk into my kids’ rooms every time I want to give them a hug. So, I’m even thinking that once we go back to normal, I am going to miss certain things, and part of what I’ll miss is connectivity. It’s not that I’m going to miss the pandemic. I want to honor that we’ve lost a lot, and I also want to recognize that we’ve also gained some things, like spending more quality time with our loved ones. 

But there’s a lot of work we need to do, and there’s a lot of stress people have about what is waiting for us in the future.  Many of our clients continue to suffer financially; they’ve gone into debt, and they’re going to be struggling with rental commitments. We’re thinking about how we’re going to help them, and I think we’re well positioned to be able to do so.

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