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The SJP Experience: Helping Migrant Workers Fight for Their Rights

Stories | 01.27.20

At Adler University, first-year students work with community organizations as intern advocates to help advance social justice. At the end of each year, students present on what they have experienced and learned through their Social Justice Practicum (SJP) at campus-wide events—and here on our University blog.

Heinz Avendano, a student in the Vancouver Campus Master of Industrial and Organizational Psychology program, completed his Social Justice Practicum at the Dignidad Migrante Society, a nonprofit that supports temporary workers in Canada. Dignidad offers free services to workers along with many community-oriented events, such as social events, and group emotional support.

During his time at Dignidad, Avendano coached 16 female workers who were rescued from the Golden Eagle Farm, where working conditions were reported to be bleak. He also mapped worker services like pensions, trained volunteers, and attended workshops. Avendano shared his experience with us.

What did you enjoy most about your internship?
I enjoyed the thrilling and rewarding experience of helping a very vulnerable sector of our society that we don’t know much about it. Temporary migrant workers can only work for one employer, often don’t know English or their rights, and they are typically living in remote areas—factors that can easily lead to situation where the workers can be taken advantage of or exploited.

How do you think this experience has impacted your studies and future career?
It has been a tremendous impact on my studies and life. I did individual and group coaching and put positive psychology into practice. Working with a brave group of abused Guatemalan women, seeing them fighting for their rights, surviving for months without any money—and even winning a case against the Aquilini family who own the farm—was very inspirational.

Why is important to you to work to help marginalized communities?
It is important to me to help marginalized communities because we all deserve equal opportunities and to belong to a community. I want to help ensure everyone feels a strong sense of belonging with equal opportunities. We have a responsibility as organizational psychologists to improve lives. We can do that by helping advance social justice.

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