Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center


Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center
Added on February 17, 2022 to Member News

Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center

Business Name: Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center
Phone: (757) 708-2812
President’s Name:  Elvira De La Cruz
President’s Title: Senior Advocate / CEO

What are your business’s core values, goals, and overall mission?

To provide education, advocacy, and support to Spanish-speaking individuals affected by violence in Virginia in order to ensure that they can access services that empower them to become happy, healthy, and self-sufficient.

Share some unique facts and business history? What makes your business stand out?

Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center started as a grassroots initiative in 2008 with the purpose of providing information to Spanish-speaking individuals so they could better adapt to their new community and lives in Virginia and learn about the services available to them.

Over the years, this has been made possible by the support of bilingual and bicultural volunteers. They donate their time and resources to provide in-person and phone interpretations, translations, and assistance with completing applications for various service agencies that do not provide access to interpreters or that require clients to bring their own interpreter to access their available services.

After several years of grassroots work and having served approximately 20 families per year with only the assistance of volunteers, we hired a consultant to help us build the agency’s capacity in order to better serve our community. The first step was to identify whom we were serving because we were receiving and responding to requests based on the availability of our volunteers. The only criteria we had was that the person receiving help was a Spanish-speaking individual in need.

During this process, we learned that even though our services were not advertised for victims of crimes, 94% of the requests for services came from Spanish-speaking individuals in distress because of a crime committed against them. Almost 90% of those crimes were never reported to authorities because the victim did not know how to navigate the system, or for fear of not receiving help due to their immigration status and language and cultural barriers. We then realized that in Virginia, no agency existed that provided services for victims of crimes that could guarantee immediate access to a Spanish-speaking advocate. Being aware of the barriers that Spanish-speaking victims of a violent encounter, Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center renewed its mission to focus on providing education, advocacy, and support to Spanish-speaking individuals affected by violence and injustice in Virginia, and to ensure that these victims can access services that will empower them to become happy, healthy and self-sufficient.

Today, Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center utilizes the ‘Líderes’ program developed by Casa de Esperanza, now a nationally recognized domestic violence organization. The program draws on an immigrant’s natural strengths and creates an opportunity for Latino survivors of violence to be actively involved in creating a change in their community. Through this program, we are able to provide direct services while also expanding the level of impact on both program alumni and the community by partnering with the ‘Líderes’ within the community.

What products or services do you offer companies or individuals?

We offer free and confidential services for victims of violence who are Limited English Proficient. 

Our direct services are safety planning, support groups, case management, crisis intervention and advocacy, peer counseling for parents and children, accompaniment to court/hospitals, assistance obtaining protective orders, emergency shelter placement, information and referrals, financial assistance. 

What are some of the greatest obstacles and/or challenges that your business has faced? How Have you and your business overcome them?

We want to offer our services to many people but have unfortunately are low on advocates and we cannot achieve to serve everyone that we want to. We hope to overcome this by showing our nearby providers and businesses the need for these services and in the future receive donations and/or funds to help us keep our mission going. 

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

In this last year we served over 500 clients and answered over 2000 crisis calls. We have seen an increase of 200% for our services in the past 12 months. 

What do you see for the future of your business?

We hope to not only expand into the Hampton Roads area but include several more offices in the entire state of Virginia to continue serving the Latino community. 

Why are you a member of the Hampton Roads Chamber?

We have recently opened our new office in Hampton Roads and hope to spread the word of our services to the Hispanic community and network with all the amazing businesses and organizations.