A conversation with Evelyn Hernandez, Receptionist at Casa Cornelia
As soon as a person walks through the door to share their story, Casa Cornelia staff welcome them with a smile, resources to apply for legal aid, and information about additional services.
This first interaction sets the tone for the relationship with our potential clients – a tone based on compassion, resourcefulness, and the mission to provide access to justice, hope and dignity. Many of Casa Cornelia’s clients are victims of sexual violence, trafficking, and torture, so communicating with emotional intelligence is very important. “If a person is whispering, sometimes I have to read between the lines,” says Evelyn Hernandez, Casa Cornelia’s receptionist, “it’s about understanding who is in the room, and sensing the feelings that our clients share with their voice and body language. I am here to make them feel welcome.”
Cultural humility is especially important. “We serve people from all over the world; they have a wide range of nationalities, and speak a variety of languages.” In 2017 alone, Casa Cornelia responded to 197 individuals from Africa, 30 persons from Asia, and 20 people from Eastern Europe. “Once, a woman from Russia came to the office and with no immediate interpreters available, I used online translations to understand her story and give her instructions, an application form, and directions.”
At times, the reception area is also a place of joy and celebration. Clients experience the end of their legal process by the front desk, where Evelyn witnesses moments of joy and unbelievable hope as they receive their work permits, and the opportunity for independence and freedom. “From time to time, I have the privilege to witness this life-changing moment, and it reminds me why I work here.”
Since 1993, Casa Cornelia has responded to over 10,000 men, women and children seeking justice and humanitarian protection. Each board and staff member, volunteer, donor and advocate plays a critical role in the process of providing quality pro bono legal services to our clients. We thank you for your support!