Volunteer Spotlight: Nayara Gervasio

Nayara Gervasio has come to volunteer at Just Neighbors thanks to her international friendships.  Nayara grew up in Belo Horizonte, Brazil where our Executive Director, Erin McKenney has traveled on several mission trips through her church. Naya and Erin became friends and have stayed in touch through the years. Naya, who graduated with a Business Degree from the Isabela Hendricks Methodist University Center, decided after a couple of years of working in a hotel that she wanted to apply to be a United Methodist Global Mission Fellow. Growing up she had met many missionaries and was inspired by one of her friends to apply. She applied, and to her surprise she was accepted.

Naya would eventually be assigned to El Salvador. She received training in Atlanta, Georgia and Cambodia before eventually making it to El Salvador in December of 2016. In El Salvador, Naya worked with the Pastoral of the Immigrant of the Salvadoran Lutheran Synod to help deportees who were returning to El Salvador to reestablish their life. They did such things as provide the money for deportees to buy seeds to start farming or beauty shop supplies to start cutting hair for a living. Naya’s business background also helped her teach people how to better manage their finances. The Lutheran mission also focused on educating Salvadorans who wanted to go to the United States on the dangers of the journey and the potential legal risks to deter people from leaving El Salvador. If they still chose to make the journey (usually because they were in legitimate danger in El Salvador), they would show them safe places they could stop along the way and try to help prepare them for the steps ahead in filing for asylum.

After Nayara’s mission came to an end she went home to Brazil to see her family. Following her time in El Salvador, Naya decided she wanted to see the immigrant perspective from the other side and reached out to Erin about volunteering at Just Neighbors for a few months. Naya has been in Virginia since September and volunteers with the National Justice for Our Neighbors office three times a week doing administrative work and two times a week with Just Neighbors answering client calls and doing telephone intakes. Naya says it has been wonderful getting to help at an office where immigrants are treated with dignity and respect as well as provided help in their own language. She recalls how hard it was for her to go through the immigration process in El Salvador when she was still learning Spanish.  We are so glad to have been able to have Naya here with us and learn about El Salvador and Brazil from her. We will miss her so much when she leaves in December and wish her the best in the pursuit of her dream- to go from being a Global Missions Fellow to becoming a Global Missionary.

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The mission of Just Neighbors is to provide immigration legal services to low-income immigrants and refugees in Virginia, especially those who are most vulnerable. We also seek to foster enriching experiences that enhance awareness and mutual understanding among our clients, volunteers, staff and community.

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