In Her Shoes is a series that profiles young women working in YWCAs across the country.
Monica Silva is the CEAP Specialist Representative for the Sheltering Arms Senior Services program at the YWCA of Houston. CEAP (Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program) is a utility assistance program designed to assist low-income household families, seniors, and the disabled. Monica graduated with an AAS in Accounting and Payroll MSA from HCC-Southeast. She considers working with the YWCA an opportunity she will never forget.
Describe your normal day from your first morning coffee and on…
A usual day at the YWCA consists of checking voicemails, our mailbox, and our fax machine for new applications for our assistance program and missing information that clients send in. I review incoming electricity or gas disconnection notices and return phone calls throughout the day. Clients call every day to check on the status of their applications, but not all days are the same; there are days that we have drives at our office, where clients who need help paying their light or gas bills come to seek financial council. Other days we have meetings with the Program Coordinator and we discuss how to approach clients with different scenarios and how to meet our goals.
What challenges or obstacles do you face in your role?
There are always different challenges while interacting with the different clients that we meet. Each person comes with a different story that explains how they got into the financial position they’re in at that moment. But I believe that there is no challenge that cannot be overcome. The ability to understand every situation, make our clients feel secure, and give them the peace of mind by listening to their situation and seeing how we can help is what we strive for.
Name three skill sets that you find important to be successful in your role.
A positive attitude, active listening, and being a self-starter.
A simple smile, “Hello,” or “Good Morning” can change anyone’s attitude. A positive attitude is necessary because it shows appreciation, not only to our clients but to our co-workers. It is heartwarming to know that the clients or people you work with might be going through some difficult moments, yet with a positive attitude, you give them hope and lift their spirits up.
Being an active listener is one of the most important skills for working with the CEAP Program. Clients come to us with different stories, and sometimes all they need is someone to hear them out. It is a way for them to release their stress and an opportunity to pour their heart out to someone who they know will listen.
In our environment, to grow we need to be self-starters. In every project we do, if no one takes initiative, then we can’t go anywhere.
What excites you the most about your job?
Meeting new clients, understanding them, and knowing that they leave our offices with relief brings absolute joy to my heart. Knowing that I have been a great help to them, just by listening, is a great feeling. I’m the most excited when their application gets approved and they call just to say, “Thank you.”
Do you have a favorite client success story? If so, what is it?
A client came in one day for assistance with her utility bill – she was in a wheelchair. As we did her application, she shared her story of how she came to be in a wheelchair: “I was able to walk, write and speak well. One morning as I did my normal routine, I felt cramps in both my legs. I just walked around, trying to get it to go away; I went to take a shower and that is all I remember. Later that afternoon my friends said they found me on the floor of my bathroom. Since then I have been in a wheelchair; doctors said I was never to walk or write again. Yet I have managed and I can walk with a cane and write my name. They didn’t know about my God.” Then she just smiled.
What do you like most about working at the YWCA?
What I like most about working at the YWCA is helping my community and being a part of a team of women who support and encourage each other to reach their goals. Working at the YWCA has made me see life in a very different perspective. I don’t look at a person as ordinary; I can now imagine their struggles and needs. There is always that thought in my mind of what I can do to help them and make this community a better place. I feel very fortunate to be a part of an organization that is about helping people in need, not only because we help so many, but also because I know that they will be there for me in my time of need. I want to make a difference in people’s lives, just like my bosses and mentors at the YWCA have made a difference in mine.