Arandu Alvarez is part of a critical public health team that is helping to prevent the transmission of Covid-19 in the Canal neighborhood and across Marin County by providing health education, testing, and vaccination outreach. His service as a Case Investigator Coordinator for Canal Alliance (a recent promotion from Contact Investigator) is a testament to his determination and hard work, which includes working in front-line restaurant jobs, taking English language classes, and completing two workforce training programs through Canal Alliance – opportunities that became possible after a critical change in his immigration status.
Arandu came to the United States to visit his mother in 2017 after being separated from her for 20 years. Soon after he arrived, they received news from an attorney that Arandu qualified for a work permit and a path to permanent residency; they also learned that his mom was approved for a U-Visa, which is an immigration benefit that protects victims of crime. With this news, Arandu jumped at the opportunity to remain in the U.S., and has since sought out opportunities to learn and advance in his ability to work, earn a living and give back to the community.
First, Arandu registered for English classes at the College of Marin, while a family friend helped him get a part-time job at Gott’s Roadside in Greenbrae. At Gott’s, he showed exceptional skills and was offered the manager position. “The staff at Gott’s were like family,” Arandu recalls, “they encouraged and supported me professionally. They knew I had the potential to do great things.”
Along the way, between classes and work, Arandu met Axel Flores, Workforce Development Manager at Canal Alliance. They met at a local gym, which was a fortuitous connection that would develop into a friendship and mentorship.
At the encouragement of Axel, Arandu joined the emerging Construction Training program, a partnership between Canal Alliance, College of Marin and the Marin Builder’s Association. After completing the program, Arandu obtained a certificate for the Construction Skills Program from the College of Marin and was offered a job with Storek Studio/Architecture to assist with various remodeling and public art projects.
Arandu also volunteered for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program at Canal Alliance, which is offered each Spring to help low-income or limited English-speaking individuals prepare and file their taxes. While volunteering at Canal Alliance, Arandu forged another important connection when he met Workforce Development Supervisor, Regina Vindel.
When the pandemic hit and work slowed, both in construction and at the restaurant, Arandu applied for a position as a Contact Investigator at Canal Alliance where he received workforce training through UCSF and UCLA in public health/contact tracing. To further prepare for his new role, Arandu added to his English classes. “At night I would write out words and phrases on my whiteboard and practice, practice, practice. I wanted to keep pushing myself, and it made me happy to be able to talk to my co-workers in English.”
Once again, Arandu’s performance as a Contact Investigator generated new opportunities and greater responsibility, including on-site outreach. “At different health sites, I worked with police, firefighters, doctors, and nurses. I registered people for the vaccine, helped with logistics, translations and anything else that arises.
“I noticed a lot of people were scared because of their work or immigration status. When I shared that I was with Canal Alliance, people became much more relaxed and trusting. The Canal neighborhood was really affected by the virus, and it was good to know that I could help my community. I felt proud to help people.”
“I am happy to have been offered the position of Case Investigator Coordinator and I am now back at work in the evenings with Storek Studios/Architecture on a project for the new offices of the Multicultural Canter of Marin. Canal Alliance is like home for me and I am thankful for all the opportunities they have provided. It has been an incredible transformation.”