The following profile was written by Julia Ayala. Julia is a Nonprofit Internship Program (NPIP) intern working with The Denver Foundation's Leadership & Equity team. Julia, a native of Northeast Los Angeles, will be a Senior at Regis University in the Fall where she is majoring in Sociology with a minor in Peace and Justice.
Indira Guzman-Sais and Nelly Limon. Two leaders, two women, and two residents of the Sheridan neighborhood. Indira Guzman-Sais, driven to help the voices in their community be heard, started her career as an interpreter for a local neighborhood group after a decision to enter back into the workforce. While attending a Learning Journeys Workshop in Cleveland she learned about co-operatives (co-ops). Inspired by what she learned, Indira decided to turn the business of interpretation into something bigger: a co-op. Before she started the Community Language Cooperative (CLC), she applied for a grant from The Denver Foundation for interpretation equipment (microphones, headsets, and wireless receivers) and coaching on how to start a co-op.
At first, the CLC strictly focused on interpreting in community-based settings to bring language access to places where there were existing language barriers. Community interpreting would then become the foundation of the co-op. Financially, it was hard to start the CLC because Indira had to learn that a co-op is more of a “community wealth model, rather than a model focused on earning money for oneself.” She took some business classes to help learn about the benefits of building a relationship with money as well as develop a model that was both sustainable and authentic for the CLC.
| Indira Guzman-Sais
As the CLC began to develop, she hoped it would not only impact the community but the workers as well. It would give an opportunity for the workers to have a steady and flexible income. The co-op was not an individual movement; there were many coaches and advisors who contributed to the success of the CLC. With their help, they were able to apply for a technical assistance grant through The Denver Foundation, to boost the CLC’s work.
Today, the co-op has 38 statewide translators working at the local and national level. Indira has not only helped her co-op grow, but she’s also coached organizations, emphasizing the importance of building relationships with clients. Indira explained her role as a coach as, “natural and innate.” For Indira, part of being a coach is, “being hands-on, learning from your mistakes and being honest about them.” She emphasizes the strong voice and potential in the community, that was apparent in Nelly Limon, a parent in the Sheridan community. Indira and Nelly attended leadership classes at The Denver Foundation and built connections with their neighbors.
A few years later, Nelly, who had never written a grant before, was tasked with applying for a grant through The Denver Foundation. Although the grant process intimidated Nelly, Indira constantly encouraged her and instilled confidence in her partner. Indira constantly reiterates to Nelly that her “passion for helping the community would be reflected in her writing.”
About two years later, they received a grant from The Denver Foundation Strengthening Neighborhoods Program for general community organizing and have named their group Sheridan Rising Together for Equity. Nelly explained her vision for the organization as, “having a lot of community leaders and parent leaders being in the important positions such as the school board or city council and making the changes that we want to see.”
Sheridan Rising Together for Equity was not alone. They received coaching assistance on leadership training, community organizing and one on ones which are important to building connections and relationships with people. The coaches have been essential to the success of the organization, but so has the whole Sheridan Rising Together for Equity staff. Empowered with a deep history of Sheridan and it’s residents, their cohesive work makes them strong and proud to be leaders for their community.
“38 CLC workers with a minimum wage income to provide for their families and the work they do greatly impacts the communities and continues to help open channels for communication. We would not have that opportunity if it weren’t for The Denver Foundation Strengthening Neighborhoods Program," Indira notes.
Although the barriers are real for the Sheridan community, they are not insurmountable, and Indira Guzman-Sais and Nelly Limon, two leaders, two women and two residents of the Sheridan neighborhood continue making a lasting impact in their community.