“At the beginning of this pandemic everything we were doing as an EMT became 10 times harder.” Twenty-six-year-old Reyna M. has been working as an EMT and front line worker throughout this current Covid-19 crisis. On an unseasonably warm November day she sits on a step at a park in Chicago and shares parts of her story with World Relief staff and volunteers. It is hard to imagine her small frame lifting grown men from a 3rd floor apartment down stairs to the ambulance below but as she tells stories of her job she beams with pride because she knows she is making a difference. She is passionate about serving her city.
But Chicago was not always her home.
Reyna M. has been in the U.S. for 22 years. Originally from Mexico, she came to the United States when she was four years old. Her father brought her and her 1 year old sister across the border because he was having difficulties finding work to care for his family as a mechanic in their home country. He came to the US- specifically Florida first and found work and then sent for his family so he could provide for them. They settled in Chicago and she has grown up most of her life here with her close-knit family.
She connected with World Relief through a friend of her father’s friend- “it is so hard to know who to trust (with immigration issues) because it is scary because there are lots of people without good intentions that are trying to scam people.” Reyna heard that World Relief was motivated to serve because of the Christian values and that attracted her because of the “intrinsic motivation to help people was so nice.” She shared, “We heard World Relief’s Legal Team was helping with the process of filing paperwork and DACA applications.” She started the process right after high school and was approved in a matter of months, “all of a sudden I could do so many new things. I was able to have job opportunities. I never really thought I would go to college and I don’t think my family ever expected I would be able to go to college because I was undocumented. We never knew what we could and could not do and asking was a little scary because there are people who don’t have good intentions.” Reyna was able to go to college and she received a scholarship because she was in the top 10% of her high school class and thrived with the freedom that high school brought to pursue extracurriculars like swimming. During college she started studying Computer Science but she realized what she really wanted to do was be a part of the medical community so she became an EMT. Her goal now is to continue her studies to become a nurse. She hopes to first work towards her paramedic certificate and then study to become a respiratory nurse and CNA and eventually work in an emergency room in the future.
During the pandemic she has seen firsthand the racial and economic disparities that exist in the survival rates. Her work takes her all around the Chicagoland area and she sees hospitals located in less resourced communities not have enough PPE or supplies. Reyna has been careful and protecting herself and has not contracted Covid-19 despite the high risks she faces each day. Even though at the start of the pandemic Reyna says there was a lot of panic she has continued to do her work with excellence and take the protocols seriously, “assume everyone has it but don’t panic- they are still people.” She has gone above and beyond in her job even carrying a fanny pack with extra supplies like masks for people that do not have them because for her “being there for my patients is my job.”
Reyna is a vibrant, caring, and brave young woman who like many essential workers is risking her safety to serve others during this crisis in our nation. “When people ask me if I am Hispanic or Mexican or American, I say that I feel Mexican-American. I am both and Chicago is home and it is where I belong. I fell in love with this city. And I want to help Chicagoans.”
Reyna is grateful for the work of World Relief in opening up more opportunities in her life, “I so appreciate World Relief’s advice- it is one of those places you can definitely trust.”
A visual storyteller that focuses on human emotion & connection. I help families, individuals, & couples to share their beautiful messy story.
I also partner with humanitarian, non-for-profit organizations, and NGOs share their stories with intention, dignity, & excellence, so they can have a greater impact on their communities.