News & Views

Meet Our Staff: Michelle Nava

“I knew that I wanted to help my community the way HIAS PA helped my family.”

-Michelle Nava

We spoke with Michelle Nava, one of our Case Managers on the Immigrant Victims of Crime team, about what her role at HIAS PA means to her. Read the extended interview below!

What brought you to the organization?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve known about HIAS PA and their dedication to the immigrant and refugee community, because they actually had a personal impact in my family’s life. I never imagined I would have the opportunity to work here, but I knew that I wanted to help my community the way HIAS PA helped my family. When the opportunity presented itself to be a part of this organization that would allow me to work with immigrants and provide social services, I didn’t think twice, and here I am!

Why do you do what you do?
I am a daughter of immigrants, and have experienced firsthand the struggles my parents faced with many language and cultural barriers accessing services and advocacy. There weren’t many resources that I remember when I was younger, and I felt that I had a lot of responsibility helping them navigate the system. In this career, I’m doing what I’m doing for other families who might need that added support, so I hope to continue to contribute to that community.

What languages do you speak? How does this help you when working with your clients?
I grew up learning English and Spanish. Knowing Spanish has brought my clients comfort knowing that there is someone they can speak to in their own language. Language barriers might make it nerve-wracking for them to open up to new people. It brings them a lot of comfort to know that somebody speaks their language and can understand their emotions, their concerns, and their issues. Knowing a second language has allowed me to bridge this gap for many of our clients.

What does a typical day look like for you?
My day consists of a lot of client follow-ups and collecting up-to-date resources and information to share with clients, to make sure that they’re connected to reliable resources and are informed of their basic rights and opportunities.

What is one interaction that you’ll remember for the rest of your life?
My first appointment outside of the office at HIAS PA had me accompanying a client to City Hall to get their marriage license. They had their venue and special day planned out, but they didn’t feel comfortable going by themselves to get their marriage license. It was an honor to be part of that important milestone in their lives, and they made it known that they were very grateful that I was part of the process. I had only just begun at HIAS PA a month prior, so I know it can be difficult to build that trust, but being part of that process was very exciting, and I was grateful to be part of that.

What is your favorite thing to eat in Philly?
I’m a huge fan of tacos! Especially tacos de carnitas from around South Philadelphia. Whenever I’m down in South Philly, I can always count on getting authentic Mexican cuisine. I love the food at Plaza Garibaldi on Washington Avenue, and I’ve gone there for years.

*Answers have been edited for length and clarity*