By: Gaby Rattner for Greenwich Sentinel
OUR GROANING BOARD
A few weeks ago, Community Centers, Inc (CCI) hosted a potluck dinner for our clients. To make the evening special, we invited all our guests to bring dishes that reflected the cultures they hail from. Now, I love to cook. And I love to eat even more. But the mouth-watering array of colors, aromas, and ingredients that appeared on the CCI buffet table that night surpassed my wildest imagination.
We had empanadas and tacos from Mexico, taquitos from Ecuador, mac and cheese from the American South, rice and beans from Haiti, challah from Israel. Drum music from South America and Africa furthered the atmosphere of internationalism.
Much has been made of the apparent homogeneity of the Greenwich populace. But our groaning board revealed otherwise. CCI clients come to us from Guatemala, Peru, Chile, Argentina, Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, the Philippines, and beyond. Greenwich is, in fact, a richly diverse community, made wealthier, as it were, by the opportunity to meet, befriend, and break bread with a varied group of people.
Today, the majority of our clients come from all over Latin America, from Northern Mexico to the Southern tips of Chile and Argentina, from the Dominican Republic to Puerto Rico. All told, CCI has helped more than 300 immigrants become American citizens.
One of the ways CCI helps smooth the path for these Greenwich newcomers is by offering instruction in English and citizenship. For several decades now, people from all over the world have walked through our doors. We’ve had everyone from parents and grandparents from South America to au pairs from Europe. One gentleman in particular who stays in our hearts and minds is Walter. He is from Ecuador and truly loves the United States. He is a husband, a father and was once a professor, but his professional standing changed radically when he chose to leave his homeland in search of a better life for his family. He had a terrific career back in Ecuador, emigrated with his wife and children to give them the American Dream. He has been a member of the CCI family for more than a decade since he arrived here.
Walter is a man of pride, dedication, education, and perseverance. He worked as a rest-stop clerk and gas attendant for many years so that he could practice his English. CCI was there to help him with communication skills. He then took on the job of a truck driver. From there Walter went on to work as a life coach for an elderly couple, acting as their chef, personal trainer, handyman, and chauffeur. In 2013, Walter and his entire family became American citizens.
He and his wife have been able to give their children the opportunity to attend college here so they can begin their version of the American Dream. In fact, Walter and his wife just recently saw one of their own dreams come true: they purchased their first house, a goal they formed on the first day they arrived in the United States. CCI was there to answer any questions they had, even the small ones, such as providing asked for landscaping advice. Walter’s new dream? To one day, again, be a professor, but here in the Unites States! We have no doubt that he will also accomplish that dream, and CCI will be here to cheer him on. If you ask us, folks like Walter are what make Greenwich such an amazing place to live. We are grateful for the inspiration he provides through the examples he sets for his family and for us. And we are grateful for the opportunity to learn from and share in the cultures of all our clients.