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Cristina E. Sanidad '08
I am continually surprised and challenged by my JVC placement at InterFaith Worker Justice. Recently, I assisted a group of roofers and framers—who were each owed $7000 in back wages—in filling out application forms for a civil suit; in addition to the forms, we had to apply for a waiver of all court-related fees. On the form, the applicant must specify his or her assets, income, debts, and expenses. Many of their applications looked similar in that their monthly income was much less than their monthly expenses and each had a car, worth under $1,000, as his only asset. “Fernando's” application showed that he had no income of his own, though his wife earns $1,280 per month. His family's expenses, including rent, utilities/phone, laundry, food, car insurance, and gas totaled $1,650 and his car, his sole asset, is worth $800. While I imagine my own application might look similar as I am $20,000 in debt with less than $100 in my bank account (thanks to my wonderful education at SCU and my propensity for stipend jobs), I will never feel the isolation, the fear, nor the desperation that this family suffers from physically and emotionally everyday.
The networks I have developed, my knowledge of community resources, my literacy in the English language, my college education, and my sense of entitlement because I am a United States citizen are all privileges that work to my advantage and ensure that my needs are met. I realize that it is not enough to recognize this privilege, though for many this is an important first step. We must all, students and graduates of Santa Clara University, continue to live as men and women for others by utilizing our education and incredible privilege to draw attention to systematic injustice and working toward the health and welfare of all community members.
One particular lesson that has been of incredible value to me personally is the daily reminder of my privilege. I have a family and community here in Phoenix that loves and cares for me, and parents who have offered me a Catholic/Jesuit education my whole life. I have always lived in a healthy environment away from violence, danger, and fear. I have always had healthcare, housing, food, and clothing. While attending Santa Clara University, I sometimes forgot that these fundamental aspects of my life, which I have never gone without, are privileges. Rather than view my circumstances relative to others' in the world, I compared myself with other Santa Clara students, many of whom have access to great material wealth; this unhealthy comparison always made me feel small and socioeconomically disadvantaged. My service to the community has helped to recognize my privilege, and my ability to use this privilege to work toward social change and improve the lives of marginalized persons.