Posts Tagged ‘Vladimir Gongora’

Harvard Law Touts Groundbreaking Catholic Charities Project

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Credit: Mark Bonifacio

By Kim Ashton

Harvard Law Today

When Vladimir Gongora, a deaf teenager who fled El Salvador, first met with Brett Stark ’12 two years ago in the Immigrant and Refugee Services Division at Catholic Charities in New York, the two had to draw pictures to communicate. Vladimir had never been taught to write or use sign language, and he needed Stark to help him win the legal right to stay in the United States.

Stark found him a special interpreter, one versed in communicating with hearing-impaired people without formal language skills. He then built a successful asylum case for the teenager on the grounds that Salvadoran law forbade people with serious disabilities from marrying or even acquiring a passport.

This was part of the inspiration for Terra Firma, a project co-founded by Stark, with Dr. Alan Shapiro and Dr. Cristina Muniz De la Pena, which offers legal and health services to unaccompanied minors who’ve crossed into the U.S.

Initially started with funding from an Equal Justice Works fellowship, Terra Firma is now supported by Catholic Charities, Montefiore Medical Center, and the Children’s Health Fund, and more sources of private and public funding may become available as the issue of unaccompanied immigrant children attracts more national attention.

Terra Firma provides a panoply of services to young people like Vladimir, to address the wide range of issues that often accompany their cases. This holistic approach not only helps to meet children’s immediate needs; it helps Stark in the courtroom.

Reports by Terra Firma doctors and mental health professionals often include evidence that children were persecuted and even faced life-threatening dangers in their home countries. In addition, medical and mental health providers can help to stabilize children, preparing them to assist and testify in their own cases.

Terra Firma has worked with around 100 children so far, and it is expecting to see twice as many over the next year. Clients in immigration cases, including children, do not have the legal right to publicly funded immigration lawyers, so the demand is great.

Read the full story in Harvard Law Today.

Bridging the Gap between Wealth and Want

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Looking for a sneak peek inside the lives and work at Catholic Charities?

  • Meet Vladimir, a teenager from rural El Salvador who thought he was the only child born without hearing; the Incognitos, a couple married 50 years now struggling to stay together despite illness and Erin, a cancer survivor whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy.
  • Meet Julia Schafer and MaryEllen Ferrera, Catholic Charities case managers who helped rebuild their lives.
  • Meet Catherine Kinney and Stanley Grayson, leaders on Catholic Charities’ Board of Trustees.
  • And listen as Catholic Charities Executive Director Msgr. Kevin Sullivan and His Excellency Timothy Michael Cardinal Dolan explain how Catholic Charities bridges the gap between wealth and want in Stories of Help & Hope 2013, the latest of Catholic Charities’ powerful online videos.

“Catholic Charities builds bridges,” Msgr. Sullivan says, “the bridges needed to connect New York’s great resources – public and private – to provide help that creates hope for each person, made in God’s image and likeness, non-Catholic and Catholic alike.”

It builds bridges inside and out.

“Catholic Charities was like family,” Erin says as she describes the hurricane that stole all she owned. “Finally I had a support system behind me that I didn’t get from anyplace else.  It’s not just rebuilding our house; it’s rebuilding our lives.”

Watch Stories of Help & Hope 2013 now.


A Blind Man Sees. A Deaf Man Hears.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013

 By Alice Kenny

A blind man – Iking Little – can now see thanks to services Catholic Charities staff maximized by drawing on publicity from The New York Times Neediest Cases campaign.

A deaf man – Vladimir Gongora – can now hear.

Learn more about how Catholic Charities partnered with the New York Times Neediest Cases campaign to transform lives in
this final story that concludes the campaign season.

Borrowed Hearing Aid Opens New World to Teenager

Thursday, January 10th, 2013

By Alice Kenny

Vladimir Gongora, 17, thought he was the only person who could not hear.

He grew up in Cuyantepeque, El Salvador, an isolated farming village nestled between mountains, that had no health center and, until recently, no road access for cars.

For Vladimir, there was also no school: Because he could not hear or speak, teachers shut him out, his family said.  For years he lingered by the school doors at recess, waiting for other children to exit, waiting for playmates. He communicated only with his two sisters and grandparents, using hand signals they had invented.

But now, as a student at the Lexington School for the Deaf in Jackson Heights, Queens, he has made friends with classmates who are also hearing impaired and is learning sign language and to read and write.

“He wants to work,” said his father, Jose Gongora, who never went to school, “and later get a car.  He dreams a lot, right?”

 Read his story published in The New York Times

Watch a video of him on The New York Times website

Learn about crucial help he received from Catholic Charities.