When Elena Knapton attended IIBA’s citizenship class, the instructor, Sean, impressed her right away. “In a classroom with so many people from so many different backgrounds, he made everyone feel comfortable. When I found out he was a volunteer, I thought, ‘He’s really walking the extra mile.’”
Like Sean, Elena has lived a life of service, feeding the homeless in India and assisting survivors of domestic abuse here in California. “I love to be engaged in community,” she says, so she decided to volunteer at IIBA.
Elena helps clients prepare their U Visa and VAWA applications, avenues to residency for people who have been victims of or witnesses to crimes.
“I love what I do, and I love the input I have in the lives of the clients. I learn so much from these women and men—how brave they are in spite of their circumstances. They go on, and they make it all happen for themselves and their kids. Even though we’re working in a dark scenario, the result is so positive.”
Elena has lived and worked on three continents in her life. “In the U.S.,” she says, “we have so much, but people are so lonely. That’s one of the reasons I want to help.”
As an IIBA volunteer, Elena has seen how “IIBA gives people an opportunity to change their legal status and make their lives better.” Though the work IIBA does is “official—this is something for a visa—we try to make it more personal. Sometimes I listen to clients for three hours. Sometimes they just need to talk.”