Camila Blanco lives in a household where Spanish is the main language; her parents — Alicia Rodriguez and Carlos Blanco — came to Vermont 16 years ago from Mexico to work on a farm.

Born in Middlebury, Camila, 14, learned English outside her home, and the Middlebury Union High School freshman is fluent in both Spanish and English.

So when she hears that Spanish-speakers are in need of translations services, she is quick to help.

Last summer a family arrived from Colombia at John Graham Housing and Services in Vergennes, and no one there spoke enough Spanish to help them navigate the systems in place to help them.

So Faith Parkins, a volunteer there and close friend of Camila’s family, called on Camila to help. “The people were thrilled to see somebody they could talk to and share their frustrations with,” said Parkins, a parishioner at Our Lady of Good Help Church in Brandon; Camila and her family also are members there.

Camilla confided that it makes her sad to see people who are new to the United States struggle and “to know that once my parents were struggling” to adapt to a new country, culture and language. Their journey, she said, makes her want to help others now in the same situation.

Camila has been accompanying her mother to various charitable endeavors since she was 3, beginning at the former Addison County Back to School Shop where she unpacked supplies to be distributed with backpacks to children in need.

She currently helps as a collector at the Middlebury Summer Festival on the Green and as an office assistant at the Middlebury Community Music School. And she uses her Spanish language capability while a receptionist at the Open Door Clinic in Middlebury that serves many Mexican migrant workers who don’t speak English.

She even has helped a Spanish-speaking customer with bank business.

“Camila can help a lot,” Rodriguez said, explaining that she brought her daughter into her volunteer service to give back to the community. “You feel better when you give to people than when you receive,” she said. “In life you have to do good things.”

And Parkins reminds her young friend, “There but for the grace of God go I.”

They are words Camila takes to heart. “I used to volunteer because my mother took me, but now I go because I want to,” she said. “It is better to give than to receive.”

Parkins said Camila’s parents are grateful for how well they have been treated since moving to Vermont and “want to give back where they can.”

And that is what they are teaching their daughter.

Camila is musically talented and plays the violin, piano, ukulele, guitar and clarinet. She is a member of the Vermont Youth Orchestra Association and plays violin in the Vermont Youth Philharmonia. Classical music is her favorite.

She occasionally sings in the choir at Our Lady of Good Help Church and would like to be a psychologist, neurologist or lawyer. “And if I ever have a child [he or she] will definitely be bilingual and a musician,” she emphasized. After all, being bilingual makes it easier to communicate with family and others who speak that language and to help people who need translation help.

 

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