Helping others a calling she never fails to answer
‘It’s a great feeling to plant a seed in those people’s lives.’
GIVING HOPE: From left: Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic Vida Sana Director Lavinia Velazquez, Medical Assistance Program Center case manager Luz Betancur and Together We Insure A Safer Tomorrow Assistant Program Manager Angela Amaral.
PBN PHOTO/RUPERT WHITELEY
By Michael Souza PBN Staff Writer
When choosing her profession, Lavinia “Vinnie” Velazquez never thought twice. She has spent a career in the human-services field working with the homeless who might have chronic mental-health issues, working with those battling abuse problems or advising prostitutes to straighten out their lives. Some might find it difficult, but not Velazquez. “I consider myself lucky to have the opportunity,” she said.
She is a woman with many hats, working at the Clínica Esperanza/Hope Clinic, 60 Valley St., Providence. There she leads their Vida Sana, or clean-living, project, where volunteers organize health fairs and advocate for members of their community. The volunteers, or navigators, help guide people through the health care system, and the clinic provides free, high-quality medical care and preventive services to Rhode Islanders who don’t have health insurance or cannot afford to purchase health care.
“I love this field, it’s great to get people the treatment they need and help them,” Velazquez said. “When they come back you can see that glow in their eyes that is priceless. It’s a great feeling to plant a seed in those people’s lives. I am very blessed.”
At a young age, Velazquez saw the need for better health care services for those in poverty or simply unable to speak in English. “I knew right then what I wanted to do,” she said.
Now 43, Velazquez is originally from Puerto Rico, and moved to Lawrence, Mass., when she was 6 years old. “When I was a student at [Greater Lawrence Regional Vocational Technical High School] I took some home-economics courses that included some nursing classes,” she said.
“I was there with my parents when they were going through some medical problems. I had to be an ‘old’ child and learn to navigate my way through the system because there was nobody there to help me.” With that in mind she saw the need to help those who would be in a similar position in the future.