Empathizing with immigrant members: Elvia’s story


June is Immigrant Heritage Month. We celebrate the contributions immigrants have made to our shared history and culture.

Elvia works on our Member Services team. She shares her story with us in this post.

Where did you emigrate from and when?

My family emigrated from Zacatecas, Mexico in 1977. We lived in Phoenix, Arizona at first. In 1981, we moved to Salinas, California.

What has it been like to live in the U.S. as an immigrant? 

As a child, I struggled with language barriers. Once my siblings and I started going to school and learned how to read, write and speak English, things got easier. We translated for our parents as needed.

What do you think are the biggest challenges immigrants may face when adjusting to life in the U.S.?

Some of the biggest challenges are:

  • Language barriers.
  • Getting a good paying job to support the family.
  • Getting a nice living place.

Most immigrants work in the fields and are underpaid. Working in the fields is very hard. Not just anyone can do it.

What about your heritage are you most proud of?

I am very proud of our Mexican music and food. My grandmother passed down some great recipes to my mother, and my mother to me. I will be passing those on to my children.

How has your experience of being an immigrant informed your interaction with/connection to members? And your work at the Alliance?

The experience of being an immigrant allows me to empathize with what our members are going through. Growing up with my siblings and my parents in a small, two-bedroom house was difficult. As I grew up, I realized how hard my parents were working to get us into a bigger, better home. My parents worked until we were able to move into a four-bedroom house.

The experience of being an immigrant allows me to empathize with the struggles our members are going through.

Through my teen years, I thought about how I could help my parents so they wouldn’t struggle so much. I started working after school. I would give my parents my paychecks to help.

They wouldn’t accept my money at first, but then they did. A couple of years passed, and I found out that my parents saved that money to buy a car for me and my brother.

Moral of the story is that no matter what, immigrant families don’t stop helping each other…ever!

After I graduated from high school, I knew I wanted to help families like mine. I started working in customer service for different businesses. I was learning and training all the time to gain more knowledge and experience.

I really enjoy working at the Alliance, continuing to provide customer service! In my interactions with members, I realize how many immigrants apply for food stamps, CalFresh, Cashaid/CalWorks, Medi-Cal or Covered California without realizing all the benefits of the services.

About the contributor:

Maureen Wolff Stiles

Maureen Wolff Stiles works as Digital Communications Content Specialist for the Communications Department at Central California Alliance for Health (the Alliance). She works with a variety of the health plan’s experts to strategically tailor informative, engaging materials for members, providers and the communities the Alliance serves. Maureen has been with the Alliance since 2021. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism.