Ivone Guillen (’09)
As a child in Yakima, Wash., Ivone Guillen grew up in an immigrant family. Her mother raised five children alone. No one in her family had graduated from college. Watching her mother struggle, Guillen knew that she wanted something different. She fulfilled her dreams and her mother’s when she graduated from Gonzaga in May 2009 with a double major in Latin American studies and Spanish.
Intent on helping others fulfill that same dream, Guillen went to work with Bread for the World, a Washington, D.C., Christian nonprofit that focuses on the reasons immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, leave their home countries to come to the United States. “People do not leave their countries out of pleasure but rather out of need,” Guillen said. “Immigrants migrate because they live in hunger and poverty in their own countries and their families’ livelihoods are at risk.”
Guillen recalls sharing lunch with a colleague one afternoon shortly after starting her job. As they looked out toward the Capitol, she realized that facts and figures don’t make change. People and their stories do. Hunger and poverty become real when it isn’t a faceless mass of people suffering, but one person who is doing everything he can to feed his children. Change is made when people begin to feel empathy.
Guillen focuses on writing of the challenges that daunt immigrants after they arrive. “Too few people realize that upon entering the U.S., immigrants still face many obstacles that make their lives difficult,” she said. She hopes her work will bring into clarity the reality of immigrants’ challenges in a way that readers will relate to and act upon. At Bread for the World, Guillen said, “I can share my personal perspective and understanding about working with the Latino immigrant community on an issue that I am passionate about.”– Lauren Campbell (’13)