Ayuda news

Washington, D.C., September 29, 2016 – Ayuda hosted its Welcome Breakfast on September 21 as its preeminent outreach program to community partners, civic leaders, and philanthropists in the Washington region. Sponsored by AmeriHealth Caritas DC, the event included more than 200 guests. WAMU’s senior reporter, Armando Trull, served as master of ceremonies.

 Live and video testimonials by former Ayuda clients provided vivid and gripping narratives about the plight of refugees and low-income immigrants whom Ayuda serves. Moussa, from Senegal, spoke of his experience as a domestic violence survivor. Sandra, from El Salvador, narrated the challenges she faced in trying to enroll for college. Julius, from Rwanda, recounted post-genocide violence that wrought immense personal havoc – witnessing friends and family die, attempts on his own life and despairing for his wife and children. The audience was visibly moved by their stories, which mercifully had joyful endings with Ayuda’s help.

 “Your breakfast event was very moving. It’s good to be reminded of how others are suffering around the world and that we all have an opportunity to affect change,” remarked a guest.

Armando Trull added that the migrant crisis happening in D.C.’s backyard is “the second worse migrant crisis after the Syrian refugee crisis.” He described the tens of thousands of Central American immigrants that have fled their home country due to gang violence and impoverished living situations.

Paula Fitzgerald, executive director of Ayuda, spoke of critical unmet needs because of limited capacity. “Ayuda is able to accept approximately 25 client appointments a day, but turn away 40 more daily. This organization feels a moral responsibility to help those in need and not to turn them away.”

Ayuda thanks guests for volunteering to promote Ayuda, making generous donations, and offering to provide pro bono services to help Ayuda build additional opportunities to serve more.

The Welcome Breakfast also showcased a new Ayuda video and engaged guests in small group discussions. The event raised more $18,000 from individual donors. Ayuda extends its profound gratitude.

Click here for the Welcome Breakfast photo gallery

Click here for media coverage of the event

News Release

20 July 2016



Washington, D.C. – Ayuda’s Victim Services Interpreter Bank, in partnership with the District of Columbia’s Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants (OVSJG), announced today the release of a groundbreaking new curriculum for interpreters, which is valuable to both spoken language and sign language interpreters. The set of training materials, titled “Breaking Silence: Interpreting for Victim Services,” is now available to the public, for interpreter training sessions and self-study, and can be downloaded at

The training provided in “Breaking Silence” prepares interpreters to work in a specialized field: victim-centered, trauma-informed interpreting, such as interpreting for victims of violent crime, domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse.

The training manual, workbook of role plays and exercise, and glossary of victim service terminology released today are the culmination of more than two years of work, which included two pilot interpreter training sessions that trained over 50 local interpreters. The authors of the curriculum are nationally recognized experts in interpreter training, including Marjory Bancroft of Cross-Cultural Communications.

“There is a deep need for trauma-informed interpreters who do not undermine the survivor’s voice or take control, but instead allow the service provider and the survivor to communicate clearly and transparently,” said Ms. Bancroft. “This new curriculum will allow interpreters to learn how to properly assist these survivors.”

In developing this new training, the authors assessed the needs of the D.C. region’s victim service providers by conducting a focus group and 20 individual interviews with interpreters and representatives from the Victims Assistance Network. Although the curriculum incorporates the experiences and advice of Washington, D.C. practitioners, the majority of the content is applicable to victim services work in any city.

“Not only is the survivor of a violent crime carrying the weight of their experience but they are also confronting cultural, linguistic, and social barriers that all too often prevent survivors from seeking and receiving help,” said Carolina Herrera, Language Access Deputy Director of Ayuda. “The Victim Services Interpreter Bank project aims to remove the language barrier in order to enhance the safety and welfare for hundreds of crime victims every year.”

Today, there are more than 36,000 Limited English Proficient people residing in Washington, D.C., and there are more than 5,500 Deaf or hard-of-hearing individuals in the city who may communicate using signed languages. This important new curriculum helps interpreters to better serve the needs of these growing populations.

“This critical resource will provide greater access to services while enhancing the safety of some of the most vulnerable victims of crime,” said Michelle M. Garcia, Director of the District of Columbia’s Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants. “The Breaking Silence curriculum will benefit not only providers and victims in the District, but all across the country.”

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 Launched in November 2014, the Victim Services Interpreter Bank works to meet the language access needs of victim service providers in Washington, D.C. In addition to training qualified interpreters to work in the victim services field, the project also runs an interpreter service. Through the Bank, victim service providers may request an interpreter at all hours of the day and night, whether on an emergency basis or by scheduling appointments ahead of time. The Bank arranges for telephonic interpreters when in-person interpreters are not available. Translation services are also available, allowing providers to conduct outreach in various languages and to communicate with particular clients in the appropriate written languages. The benefits of the bank are free to victim services providers because of funding from OVSJG.

 Media Contacts

Carolina Herrera


Language Access Deputy Director

Washington, D.C.

Tel: +1 202 243 7315



Kelley Dillon

Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants

Washington, D.C.

Tel: +1 202 727 3934



About Ayuda

Ayuda envisions a community where all immigrants overcome obstacles in order to succeed and thrive in the United States. We realize our vision by advocating for low-income immigrants through direct legal, social and language services; training; and outreach in the Washington, DC, metropolitan area.

Paula Fitzgerald

Ayuda’s Board of Directors Appoints Virginia Office’s Managing Attorney as Interim Executive

Washington, DC – Effective Monday, February 8, 2016, Paula Fitzgerald, Ayuda’s managing attorney for the Virginia office, will serve as interim executive director of Ayuda. This follows the departure of Ryan Dowd, who served as Ayuda’s executive for 14 months. Dowd resigned from Ayuda to return to his hometown Chicago for family medical reasons.

Paula Fitzgerald has been practicing immigration law for over ten years. Paula joined Ayuda in 2008 and helped build Ayuda’s Virginia office. Paula’s immigration legal work focuses on humanitarian relief, including VAWA self-petitions, U visas, T visas, and Special Immigrant Juvenile Status petitions. She is also experienced in family-based immigration matters, consular processing, waivers and NACARA cases. She serves on the Fairfax County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. Prior to Ayuda, Paula worked as an immigration attorney at Hogar Hispano and Hunton & Williams LLP. Paula received her J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law in 2004.

The Board of Directors has formed a Search Committee to work with the Non-Profit Advisory Group (NPAG) as search consultants.

“We thank Ryan Dowd for his exemplary service these past 14 months and wish him and his family well. We also thank Paula for agreeing to serve as interim executive director of Ayuda. Her deep knowledge of Ayuda gives us confidence that Ayuda will transition smoothly and meet our organizational goals this year,” said Diego Marquez, chair of the Board.

For more information, contact Sarah Block at (202) 387-4848 ext.143 or at

Interested in representing victims of notario/legal services fraud, who lose time, money, and sometimes immigration status because of a non-attorney’s actions?

If so, Ayuda welcomes attorneys to a PRO BONO TRAINING: Seeking Justice for DC, MD & VA Immigrant Victims of Notario/Legal Services Fraud.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 9:00 am – 12:00 pm at Bryan Cave LLP 1155 F St. NW – 7th Floor Washington, DC 20004


Pro Bono Training