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VOCES breaks down barriers, provides language, translation services

Posted at 7:34 AM, Sep 28, 2022
and last updated 2022-09-28 07:34:16-04

BATTLE CREEK, Mich. — It is National Hispanic Heritage Month, but there are local Hispanic organizations doing amazing things year-round. VOCES is a non-profit serving the Latin community of Southwest Michigan with translation services, youth and educational programs.

VOCES hosts a number of after-school programs for students of all ages. The Elementary Literacy Program that VOCES puts on once a week, helps local children learn and upkeep their Spanish language.

"One of our biggest barriers is that language barrier. And that's not specific just to Calhoun County," VOCES Executive Director Jose Orozco said.

A study by the Michigan Department of State took a closer look at primary foreign languages spoke across Michigan. In 2020, they found Spanish is the second most spoken language in West Michigan -- including in Kent, Ottawa, and Kalamazoo counties.

Orozco says those small barriers puts Spanish-speaking people at a real disadvantage; but this group is here to help.

"VOCES is a nonprofit, community based organization serving the Latinx community here in Battle Creek," Orozco said.

The organization offers college readiness programs for high schoolers, translation services for adults and help with official documents.

"Priority, is mainly providing a voice for the Latinx community that oftentimes goes unheard," Orozco said.

And it all starts with the youngest members of the community.

"One of the goals of our programming is for the children to be proud of their culture and their language," VOCES Education Program Manager Evelia Bautista said. “It doesn't always come easy for everyone.”

Children in the program learn new Spanish words, do activities and sometimes have 'Spanish only' days when everyone has to speak fully in Spanish.

"I like coming here, because then I learn about my culture and I have fun," second grader Daniela Paola Cardoso said.

It's an opportunity that makes Daniela's mom and dad proud.

"Both my parents are born in Mexico, and I'm born here," she said.

To learn more about VOCES and their services, click here.