Thursday, September 20, 2018
News Roundup

Casa Chiapas looks to bridge gap for unique immigration group

TAMPA — When the lights at Mort Neighborhood Park are shut off for the night, the lights in a small back room stay on.

Inside, a Mexican flag is positioned in front of a few metal folding chairs. English and Spanish workbooks line the bookshelves of a makeshift classroom.

Cielo Gomez, 33, is teaching Spanish to a 25-year-old woman from Chiapas, Mexico, while the woman's two children sit in the desks next to her finishing homework of their own.

Gomez is the head of Casa Chiapas, a community organization in the University Area that directly serves Hispanics, including the more than 5,000 Chiapan immigrants living in the area near the University of South Florida and Florida Hospital.

They come from one of the poorest and least developed states in southern Mexico. The average Chiapan has less than seven years of schooling, according to recent data from the Mexican government. And Chiapans do not speak Spanish. Most speak native Mayan languages Tsotsil and Tseltal.

Although they account for about 30 percent of the University Area Community Development Corporation's youth program participants, many Chiapans are hard to assist because of deep cultural and language divides.

Casa Chiapas hopes to change that.

Gomez left a position assisting students in English as a Second Language courses four years ago to create Casa Chiapas. Classes and community events were initially held in a small apartment in Tampa.

Gomez arranged math readiness, Spanish and English classes. Those who complete adult education courses can receive their middle school diplomas from the Secretary of Education in Mexico.

She teaches and runs Casa Chiapas with only a handful of volunteers and board members.

When someone in the Chiapan community is in need of medical assistance or other such emergencies, Gomez is the first person they call. Much of her work requires driving for people who have never had a driver's license.

Her unofficial motto: "By helping them, we give them the tools to help us or another person tomorrow."

Gomez's work with Casa Chiapas has helped to build trust between community outreach groups and a weary population, many of them undocumented.

At a recent Thanksgiving meal drive, Gomez brought 30 families in to the Community Development Corporation to receive free food.

"She has been that bridge for us to reach out to the community and say 'The programs here are for you,' " said Corporation chief executive Sarah Combs. "She's opened doors for us by walking families in."

Casa Chiapas also offers basketball and soccer leagues with the help of the Corporation. Romeo Gomez, 27, organizes and coaches the leagues. He said they are vital to tackling obesity, which is rampant in the Hispanic community. It also works to keep kids off the streets and away from drugs, which is a major struggle in the University Area.

"I like when the families are coming and enjoying watching the games," he said. "Our young people don't go outside, but this let's them move."

Casa Chiapas is run through small grants from the Chiapas state government and the federal government in Mexico. In recent years, those grants have gotten smaller.

The group receives roughly $5,000 each year from the Mexican government. It received an additional $18,000 from Chiapas when they first began in 2011. By 2014, Chiapas was sending only $14,000.

Most recently, donations from the Chiapas government have stalled, but the group remains hopeful it will come through.

Contact Roberto Roldan at [email protected]

Comments
USF up to No. 2 in AAC power rankings

USF up to No. 2 in AAC power rankings

Three schools remain unbeaten, led by UCF, which moved up to No. 16 in the Associated Press poll. USF beat a Power Five opponent for the second week in a row and Cincinnati is off to its best start since 2012. The biggest jump this week comes from Te...
Updated: 1 hour ago
The Daystarter: Rays keep rolling in playoff chase; how the Mississippi River is affecting Red Tide; behind the scenes at Howl-O-Scream

The Daystarter: Rays keep rolling in playoff chase; how the Mississippi River is affecting Red Tide; behind the scenes at Howl-O-Scream

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.• Start the day with a 30 percent chance of isolated showers and thunderstorms, which will grow to 50 percent in the afternoon, according to the National Weather Service. The high will ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Boston incident sparks concern over testing gas pipes in St. Pete

Boston incident sparks concern over testing gas pipes in St. Pete

By SUHAUNA HUSSAINTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — One day after a string of fiery natural-gas explosions rocked three Massachusetts towns,St. Petersburg sent out a notice to residents warning them that Florida Gas Transmission will be testing its...
Updated: 12 hours ago
Romano: We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum

Romano: We need education solutions not slogans from DeSantis, Gillum

And 200,000 third-graders just rolled their eyes.I swear, even they can see through the education proposals offered by gubernatorial candidates Ron DeSantis and Andrew Gillum this week.Let’s see, the Republican wants more privatization. And the Democ...
Published: 09/20/18
Another reason Florida’s Red Tide is so bad this year: Pollution from the Mississippi River

Another reason Florida’s Red Tide is so bad this year: Pollution from the Mississippi River

The Red Tide algae bloom now tossing tons of dead fish on Pinellas County’s beaches has been fueled for months by many things — runoff from over-fertilized lawns, leaking septic tanks and sewage lines, even dust from the Sahara Desert.Now add anoth...
Published: 09/20/18
Are these guys threatening to turn AL wild card into a race? Just ask the Rays

Are these guys threatening to turn AL wild card into a race? Just ask the Rays

ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays still have got a long way to go and a short time to get there if they're gonna do what they say can't be done.If the Smokey and the Bandit paraphrase doesn't work for you, then let's try another theatrical reference....
Updated: 2 hours ago
After fleeing Hurricane Florence, East Carolina trying to keep routine in Orlando before USF game

After fleeing Hurricane Florence, East Carolina trying to keep routine in Orlando before USF game

There is nothing normal about the situation East Carolina's football team finds itself in after Hurricane Florence.The Pirates' last scheduled game (against Virginia Tech) was canceled. After evacuating campus a week ago, they remain sequestered in o...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Too many homeowners forced to tap home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses

Too many homeowners forced to tap home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses

Tapping home equity to pay for day-to-day expenses like groceries and utilities is a recipe for financial peril. It can work for a while, especially if home prices are rising. Eventually the spigot runs dry, bills pile up and your home can be lost to...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Lightning falls to Hurricanes again in preseason

Lightning falls to Hurricanes again in preseason

The Lightning did not fare much better in its second preseason crack at the Hurricanes.In fact, it did worse.It lost 6-1 Wednesday in Raleigh, N.C.Carolina put a much more veteran team on the ice than it did Tuesday in winning Tampa Bay's preseason o...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Jameis Winston’s Uber ride will never be forgotten, and shouldn’t

Jameis Winston’s Uber ride will never be forgotten, and shouldn’t

Just when you thought it was fun to be a Bucs fan again. Just when you were blissfully under the spell of FitzMagic. Just when the Bucs were becoming the cool kids in the NFL with the latest greatest show on turf.Just as the good times have arrived, ...
Updated: 9 hours ago