Wednesday, 15 July 2015

My American Adventure: My first day in the Bronx, pt 1

Today I visited the Bronx for the first time. The Bronx reminds me of  music artists like Jennifer Lopez and Fat Joe because they come from there. I caught the 6 train from Manhattan and all I could think about was Jennifer Lopez's first album which was called "on the 6" lol. I used to be a big music fan of hers back in the day.

I've heard different opinions about the borough so I was interested to find out for myself what it's really like. I had always heard that the Bronx has a strong Puerto Rican presence, and is quite dangerous with different gangs and people had bad attitude.

We had legal clinics scheduled in the Schuylerville area.  I researched the area before I left the apartment and I found out that Schuylerville was a middle / working class area. It took me 2 hours to get there because I was coming from Long Island which is a 40 minute commute to Manhattan. From Manhattan it takes about 1 hour to get to the Bronx, but with the waiting times and walking to the venue, it took 2 hours in total from Long Island. According to google maps, it's only 30 minutes by car from Long Island!

The distance didn't bother me at all and the journey didn't seem long. When you love what you do and you are passionate about it, you don't even care about the distance and other factors. But when you dread what you do or it doesn't fulfill you, even a 30 minute journey seems so long and tiresome.

The area was very quiet.  They were a lot of houses and cars around. As I walked closer to the venue, I could see shops, offices and a diner. There was a mixture of people; black, white and Hispanic.

I arrived earlier than everyone else so waited around for a bit. The council member who organized the legal clinic in the area wanted to take a picture with us before he went to a meeting. He was a very nice and hospitable and so was his staff.

The first client arrived early so she waited around for a while. She was an 83 year old woman and looked sooo good for her age. I thought she was in her 60s at first. She was telling me about her hobbies and she seems to have more of a social life than I do lol. She plays tennis a lot and is really enjoying her life. After assessing her income and assets we realized that she earned way above the threshold to receive legal assistance from us.

The law firm only provides free legal assistance to people on low income. She wasn't happy about this and I felt bad for her. However, she had more than enough to pay a lawyer for advice, but of course she wanted it for free.

It was the same situation with the second client. He was ever so nice and after we told him that we couldn't assist him, he still stayed around for a bit to talk to us about his life. He is originally from Sweden and moved to the US in his 30's. His now retired.

I was worried that we would get more client's who had a comfortable financial life and we would have to keep turning them away. After all it was a middle / working class area. However the other clients we saw were eligible for consultation.

The cases I dealt with today were complex but interesting. In terms of development and productivity, I think today was the best day I've had on my placement to far. I led the consultations which boosted my confidence and I learned so much. The clients were so down to earth and friendly which made is so much easier.

They all had a story to tell and previously had great careers and earned a lot of money. But due to  sickness in the family, the effects of hurricane Sandy and having to resign from their jobs, their finances deteriorated and legal issues arose as a result.

I felt like I had made a positive impact in regards to their situation because they will get the help they need to resolve the issues which will go in their favour. It is rewarding when you help relieve a person fromdespair, stress and hardship.

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