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Sarah Block

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Sarah Block (sblock)

  • Email: sarah@ayuda.com
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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

Paula Fitzgerald

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 http://ayuda.com/get-help/language-services/resources/

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

Email: carolina@ayuda.org


Kelley Dillon

Office of Victim Services and Justice Grants

Washington, D.C.

Tel: +1 202 727 3934

Email: kelley.dillon@dc.gov


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.

Congresswoman Donna F. Edwards represents Maryland’s 4th Congressional District, comprising portions of Prince George’s and Anne Arundel Counties.  She was sworn in after a special election to become a member of the U.S. House of Representatives in the 110th Congress in June 2008, becoming the first African American woman to represent Maryland in Congress.

Congresswoman Edwards has enjoyed a diverse career as a nonprofit public interest advocate and in the private sector on NASA’s Spacelab project.  In 1994, as co-founder and executive director of the National Network to End Domestic Violence, she led the effort to pass the Violence Against Women Act that was signed into law by President Clinton.

Since being sworn in, Congresswoman Edwards has secured a number of legislative accomplishments to improve the lives of working families in her Congressional District and around the country. Her first act as a Member of Congress was to add Maryland to the Afterschool Suppers Program, ensuring access to nutritional suppers to afterschool and youth development programs in schools located in low-income areas. During the health care debate, Congresswoman Edwards secured a provision that holds insurance companies accountable for unjustifiable rate increases.

Congresswoman Edwards’ legislative work continues to focus on creating jobs, growing the economy, and increasing opportunity for hardworking families.  She introduced legislation to expand research and development, domestic manufacturing, and infrastructure spending; increase high school graduation rates; renew Pell Grant eligibility for incarcerated individuals; reduce opioid overdose; and ensure quality, affordable child care.  She has championed efforts to protect and strengthen Social Security and Medicare, defend women’s rights and expand economic opportunity for women, raise awareness of domestic violence, and get unlimited money out of politics.  She was the first Member of the House to introduce and champion a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision.

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 sarah@ayuda.com.

United States Surgeon General

Vice Admiral Vivek H. Murthy was confirmed on December 15, 2014 as the 19th U.S. Surgeon General. As “America’s Doctor,” he is responsible for communicating the best available scientific information to the public regarding ways to improve personal and public health. Dr. Murthy also oversees operations of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, comprised of approximately 6,700 uniformed health officers who serve to promote, protect, and advance the health and safety of our nation and our world.

For the past two decades, Dr. Murthy has devoted himself to improving public health through the lenses of service, clinical care, research, education, and entrepreneurship. The son of immigrants from India, he discovered a love for the art of healing early in his childhood while spending time at his father’s medical clinic in Miami. After earning his Bachelor’s degree from Harvard and his M.D. and M.B.A. degrees from Yale, he completed residency training at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School where he later joined the faculty as an internal medicine physician and instructor. As a clinician-educator, Dr. Murthy has cared for thousands of patients and trained hundreds of residents and medical students.

When he was 17 years old, Dr. Murthy and his sister co-founded VISIONS, an HIV/AIDS education program in India and the U.S, which he led for eight years. He also co-founded the Swasthya project (“health and wellbeing” in Sanskrit), a community health partnership in rural India designed to train women to be health providers and educators. Dr. Murthy also has conducted research on vaccine development and studied the participation of women and minorities in clinical trials. He is a healthcare entrepreneur who launched a successful software technology company, TrialNetworks, to improve research collaboration and enhance the efficiency of clinical trials around the world. Most recently, Dr. Murthy served as the president of Doctors for America, a non-profit organization comprised of more than 16,000 physicians and medical students in all 50 states who work with patients and policymakers to build a high quality, affordable healthcare system for all.

Dr. Murthy firmly believes that our nation’s greatest asset has always been its people. Building a stronger, healthier America is his highest priority as the U.S. Surgeon General.


Pro Bono Partner and Director of New Perimeter
DLA Piper

Lisa Dewey became DLA Piper’s full-time Pro Bono Partner in 1999. As such, she advises and represents individuals and public interest organizations on a pro bono basis.

She has represented a man on death row in Alabama, several federal criminal appeals, and families who lost loved ones in the Khobar Towers terrorist attack in 1996. She represented the Stethem family in a lawsuit against the government of Iran under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act; that suit, concerning the death of Robert Stethem in a terrorist aircraft hijacking, resulted in a $321 million judgment against the Government of Iran. Dewey has represented refugees seeking asylum in the United States and several individuals in family law, juvenile, and housing matters.

Lisa Dewey cultivates DLA Piper’s strategic thinking on pro bono, including the vision for DLA Piper’s US pro bono program, including over 1,500 lawyers. She also serves as the Director for New Perimeter, DLA Piper’s nonprofit affiliate dedicated to global pro bono work.

As pro bono partner, Ms. Dewey also supervises associates to ensure they receive the training, mentoring, and staff support they need to give pro bono clients high-quality legal services. She identifies and procures pro bono opportunities and ensures widespread participation in the pro bono programs on partner, Of Counsel, associate, and staff levels across DLA Piper’s offices in 23 US cities. Ms. Dewey also develops and spearheads DLA Piper’s signature on pro bono partnerships between DLA Piper, corporate clients, and legal service providers.

Partner, Steptoe & Johnson LLP

George Grandison is a partner in Steptoe’s Washington office with more than 30 years’ experience in the areas of international trade, export controls and customs. Since 2007, he has also worked on coordinating the firm’s signature pro bono project to assist immigrant children and young adults who are victims of human trafficking, violent crime, abuse or neglect or who are threatened with persecution in their home country.  He served as vice chairman of the firm from 1996 through the spring of 1998. Prior to joining Steptoe, Grandison served with the Office of the Judge Advocate General of the Department of the Army and was a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Diplomatic Conference on Reaffirmation and Development of International Humanitarian Law in Armed Conflict.

As a part of Steptoe’s broader pro bono program, George Grandison works with Steptoe’s pro bono team to coordinate the firm’s award winning project for providing advice and representation for immigrant children and young adults who are victims of human trafficking, violent crime or abuse and neglect or who are threatened with persecution. In this program, Steptoe on average has fifty to sixty active representations of immigrant children and young adults being handled on a pro bono basis by attorneys across the firm’s six U.S. offices. As part of this project, Mr. Grandison and other Steptoe attorneys also provide pro bono legal advice and assistance to the Women’s Refugee Commission in its work in advocating for changes in the law and in administrative and enforcement procedures to protect the interests of immigrant children

News Anchor, ABC7/WJLA-TV

Maureen Bunyan is a 44-year veteran of television news who anchors the 6 o’clock weeknight newscasts for ABC7/WJLA-TV.

She is known as a leader in the newsroom and an advocate for women and minorities in journalism. She is a founder of the International Women’s Media Foundation, which serves women in the media in 100 countries. She is also a founder of the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) where she was inducted into the NABJ Hall of Fame in January of 2014.

Her significant contributions to broadcasting have been recognized through a variety of professional and community service awards including “Washingtonian of the Year” and her induction to the “Hall of Fame” of the Washington Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists, “The Silver Circle” of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (NATAS) and the Broadcast Pioneers Club of Washington. She has been awarded seven local Emmys, and the “Ted Yates Award,” given by NATAS to Washington, DC news broadcasters who are leaders in the profession. The National Association of Black Journalists named her “Journalist of the Year”, and she received the annual “Immigrant Achievement Award” from the American Immigration Law Foundation in 2002.

Currently, Ms. Bunyan serves on the various volunteer boards including the International Women’s Media Foundation, Casey Journalism Center on Children & Families, Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital Women’s Advisory Board, the Advisory Committee of Women in Film & Video, and Women of Washington.

In June of 2014, Maureen Bunyan was knighted and inducted into The Order of Orange-Nassau, a Dutch order of chivalry. The Order of Orange-Nassau is a chivalric honor given to those who deserve recognition for exemplary contributions to society. She was inducted her longstanding commitment to build and strengthen ties between Aruba and the United States.

Ms. Bunyan attended the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Columbia University School of Journalism and holds a Master’s Degree from Harvard University Graduate School of Education. She was born in Aruba and grew up in Southeastern Wisconsin. She is of Guyanese descent.

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