My name is Tamara Silva Peregrin, I am a naturalized U.S. citizen who is an optimistic person and full of passion for life. I would like to share my story so that it may help others on their personal journey.
In 1994, I left Cuba trying to reach the U.S. Florida's keys in a homemade boat with 23 other people. Some died at sea and some others like me were rescued by the US Coast Guard and transported to the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo, Cuba. At that time, Guantanamo Naval Base housed 35,000 people in refugee camps under the strictest military rules. On May 2, 1995, the U.S. Government changed its policy allowing for the immigration process to begin for many at the camp. I volunteered my time at Guantanamo teaching young children, interpreting in a refugee Art Gallery, and working for the Military Information Support Team (MIST).
In January 1996, I arrived in Michigan to fulfill my dream of freedom and opportunity. Twenty-one days after my arrival I found my first job with the help of the St. Vincent Catholic Charities/Refugee Resettlement Program (St. VCC). I would have preferred finding a job in teaching since I earned a Bachelor of Arts in Education. I was, however, happy to attain any job that would allow me to stand on my own. While working this full-time job, I pursued studies at Lansing Community College. Two years later I had the opportunity to become an employee at St. VCC under the Refugee Resettlement Program. There, I worked as a Job Developer and Case Manager for almost 19 years. Our main priority in the program was to resettle refugee families in the Lansing area and help adults become self-sufficient through employment, and not depend on public assistance. St. VCC also offered free classes and training to teach refugees how to achieve independence, regardless of their background education, language, and any other barrier they may be experiencing.
I am currently working at Peckham Inc. as a Bilingual Vocational Services Specialist. Peckham Inc. is a nonprofit vocational rehabilitation organization, that provides job opportunities for people with disabilities such as mental health, physical and socioeconomic barriers. I help people develop work-related skills and I provide resources that allow them to keep their job long-term and to become self-sufficient.
I hope my story and journey will encourage others to have confidence in themselves and not fall into the belief that they must depend on social and government assistance to live in the U.S. Most people who come to this country have the intention of being independent and productive, and I believe they should be able to just that.
I am happy to be a citizen of this great country. I am part of the Cuban-American community who make a significant contribution to the local community, and the place I call home. I adore this country and I am happy to serve at my capacity.