In this quarter’s Community Partner Highlight, Maryori Duarte-Sheffield shares her professional journey to the human services industry and her calling to be a resource to the community. She also shares her reflections on the creation and evolution of Indianapolis’ Latino RoundTable.
Can you tell us about yourself and your professional trajectory?
I’m originally from Venezuela, but immigrated to the United States in July 2000. I migrated here because of the political situation in Venezuela. I chose Indianapolis because my sister lives here. In the beginning, I was going to come for just one year to learn English and see if I wanted to stay or go back. I was hopeful things would improve in Venezuela, but I met my husband here and we have been married for 20 years now. I’m a mother of one son- he’s a Marine and fireman in Indianapolis. I also have three grandchildren.
I began my career by taking care of elderly people. I have a Bachelor’s in Business. My background is in the automotive industry. I worked with Ford for 13 years and 10 years with Chrysler. When I came to the U.S., I switched my field to human services. I love to provide for people and help them get better. After working with the elderly, I knew I wanted to change my field.
I have been working with the Marion County Health Department since 2009- always in the same department: healthy homes, environmental consumer management, and senior care. My job is very unpredictable. I am always doing different things. For instance, with COVID-19 I am helping people who do not speak English navigate our health system. I guide people through our processes.
I’m also a Natural Helper with the Immigrant Welcome Center. I have been volunteering there since 2009. I’m a natural helper because I was born like that. It fills my heart with joy to be an instrument in helping others.
Over the course of the last 18 months, what strengths have you seen our Spanish-speaking communities leverage? What are some of the challenges that our Spanish-speaking communities have faced?
Our community is resilient. Once they learn about resources to get back on track- they do. My colleagues at the health department stepped up to create events and offer new services during the pandemic. The community is always listening and learning. Another strength of the community is our togetherness. People build trust among each other.
A lot of the Hispanic community do not speak English. From my experience working in the community, I’ve noticed people are hesitant to approach the health system. I have no data, but it’s my opinion that they think people might share their information with others. It’s my job to let them know that their health matters and it helps everyone when they are healthy.
Why do you partner with KIPP Indy?
It is so important for me to be involved in the community. I see our children and I want their futures to be bright. My grandchildren always make me think about the future. I want to give them all the tools to decide on their future wisely.
Tell us about the creation and evolution of the Latino RoundTable that you lead.
The Latino RoundTable was created over 20 years ago. The founder worked at United Way and connected with a few women from the Hispanic community. The organization has been led by other people over the years. It now has over 500 members. The Latino RoundTable is a platform for networking. The purpose of the organization has remained the same over the years: to get services and products connected to the community.