Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center

August 29, 2022
Community-based learning students and UR alumni engage with the Latinx community in Richmond

By Joanne Bong, '25, Communications Assistant for Equity & Community

The Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center works to support Spanish-speaking individuals who are victims of domestic violence.
LALIS (Latin American, Latino, and Iberian Studies) students in Dr. Karina Vazquez’s community-based learning class were given the opportunity to work with the Center as a part of their coursework.
"We live in a multilingual society, but the truth is that many victim services provide solely English services," Vazquez said. "So what the Center provides is a community of bilingual interpreters and advocates for these victims."
The Center is unique in that there are no other groups that provide such personalized services to the community.
"Our biggest strength is that everyone working with the center is bilingual and bicultural which greatly increased its success in the Latino community," CEO and senior advocate Elvira de la Cruz said.
Bailey Andress, ’23, researched how domestic violence and femicide impacts the Latinx population in the U.S. for the Center. She collaborated with Tiara Fulmore, ’22, to create an informative presentation and an interactive quiz component based on their research which has since been published.
"The Empowerment Center helps support, educate, and advocate for Spanish-speaking individuals in Virginia, especially those who have been impacted by violence," Andress said. "By doing so, the Center helps promote the overall health, well-being, and autonomy of these individuals. The Center provides these services in many ways, including through its 24-hour bilingual hotline, numerous web resources, and events."
UR students Sadie Wenger, ’23, and Danny Frascella, ’23, worked with de la Cruz on a study surrounding domestic violence in Richmond's Latinx community during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I feel that our project is beneficial in that it has the potential to be extremely educational to readers both within and outside of the Latinx population," Wenger said. "I certainly grew much more aware of the realities of victims that turn to the Empowerment Center for support and the overwhelming importance of the services provided by de la Cruz and her team."
The article that resulted from their study was published in LatinX Talk, a peer-reviewed and moderated forum for the circulation and discussion of original research where it has increased awareness of the issue in the community.
"In a time where everyone was locked in their homes, it became even more difficult for victims to find the privacy and safety to access a hotline or support system," Wenger said.
UR alum Gabriela Telepman, ‘20, was part of the Center’s team when the organization began during the heart of the pandemic.
Telepman was on track to go to Mexico City with a Fulbright grant, but COVID-19 delayed all travel abroad. Commited to working with the Latinx community in Richmond, she joined the Center’s team as community relations coordinator.
"This role entailed a lot of relationship building and networking to spread awareness about the Center’s cause with a lot of bilingual work to reach out to stakeholders," Telepman said.
Telepman is now in Mexico City completing her Fulbright Garcia-Robles Binational Internship and taking courses in  international business at the Instituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM), but she will continue to advocate for the Latinos in Virginia Empowerment Center, as will other volunteers who have come to know and believe in its mission.
"The Center is necessary because they provide incredible support and resources to vulnerable individuals,” Andress said. "They provide help and hope for Spanish-speaking community members which is especially crucial for victims of violence and other injustices."