Barelas is home to several nonprofits and community organizations. Encuentro, one of Homewise’s long-time community partners, is an organization that offers education services to immigrants. I met with Encuentro’s founder and Executive Director, Andrea Plaza, to talk about the work that they do in the community.
Encuentro was originally created as a project while Andrea was working for Southwest Creations, a contract manufacturer providing living wage employment to women from low-income communities. She ran their education program and provided adult education for their immigrant employees. It became apparent that the need for adult education and career development was very high amongst the immigrant population. She became independent from Southwest Creations and founded Encuentro in 2010, creating a set of education programs to address those needs in the Latino immigrant community. Encuentro offers education programs in English as a second language (ESL), citizenship, computer training, high school equivalency (GED), financial literacy, small business development, and home health aide certification in partnership with CNM.
The home health aide certification program, EnCasa Care, is the ONLY Home health aide program in the country available in Spanish. Encuentro is in close partnership with other immigrant advocacy organizations to offer comprehensive services for Albuquerque’s immigrant population. Community organizations such as Enlace Comunitario, which helps transform the lives of domestic violence victims and Centro de Igualdad, an immigrant based organization that works to defend the rights of Latino immigrants, complement Encuentro’s services and are integrated into their curriculum. Just recently they’ve started new partnerships to address hunger problems amongst the elderly through a collaboration with Presbyterian Healthcare, Meals on Wheels, and community kitchen and culinary incubator, Three Sisters Kitchen. The program will train home health aides on healthy food, nutrition, and food preparation for seniors.
Encuentro is more than an organization helping immigrants, they are a community with an invaluable mission. Andrea said, “Considering everything going on in the world and the attack on immigrant populations, our community is hopeful and it’s a place where people feel like they can do something for immigrants.”
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