The Power of Showing Up: Nueva Vida Recovery Café’s Immersion Visit

Silvia and José Andrade have called Gilroy, California, home since 1982. As I sat across from them, listening to Patty Marquez-Singh translate their story, I was struck by how transformation, for good or ill, is driven by those who show up. And José and Silvia, program managers of Nueva Vida Recovery Café, keep showing up for the good of their community.

Gilroy, with a population of over 55,000 people, is 60 percent Hispanic; Nueva Vida Recovery Café is the first Network Café starting out as primarily a Spanish-speaking community. (Other Cafés, including Longmont and Rifle in Colorado, Medford in Oregon, and Clark County in Washington, now also offer programming in Spanish.)

Even though the Café is not yet formally opened, Silvia and José described serving 80 people – think enchiladas and fresh tortillas – just outside the site of the future Café. They shared the joy they experience serving their community and the tears they see when they distribute bolsitas de bendiciones (“little bags of blessings”) offered to those who come by. 

When asked what about the Recovery Café Model particularly inspires them, Silvia responded that compassion and love are “at the basis of everything” in the model.

Compassion means to suffer with. And it’s clear that this couple suffers alongside undocumented immigrants fearful of reaching out for the help they need. They suffer with the knowledge that two or three families live in two-bedroom homes while real estate prices are driven sky high by the wealth in and around Gilroy – just 35 miles east of Santa Cruz and 32 miles south of San Jose. And they suffer as they often feel as if the most marginalized and vulnerable communities get left behind.

Immersion Visits 

Silvia and José, along with Patty, a consultant and interpreter, recently spent two days at Recovery Café Seattle. Their time with us was the first Immersion Visit we have hosted since COVID hit! Needless to say, having them here was an honor and a joy. 

During their time with us, Silvia, José, and Patty were immersed in Recovery Café Seattle’s milieu. They joined the community’s opening rituals prior to lunch, experienced the front desk’s expressions of radical hospitality, and learned from the Café’s team about fundraising, New Member Introductions, database management, food service, and more. 

Recovery Café Seattle staffers meet with Nueva Vida leadership.

Immersion Visits take place in Seattle and are a benefit available to all Emerging Cafés. In order to most fully experience Recovery Café Seattle’s operations and healing milieu, the two-day visits take place on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and can accommodate up to five people. Each visit offers the opportunity to experience the Recovery Café Model in action. Network staff are able to modify, to an extent, the content and focus of an Immersion Visit based on a visiting Café’s needs.

Thank You

Nueva Vida Recovery Café’s fiscal sponsor is Carry the Vision. Thank you in particular to Jorge Mendoza at Nueva Vida, Shelley Swan at Carry the Vision, and Patty Marquez-Singh for supporting this visit. 

Silvia and José, thank you for spending time with us and for modeling compassion and love for your community – for showing us the power of showing up, suffering with, and acting to relieve that suffering while reminding us of the joy you feel when you do so. And thank you to the other community leaders working closely with Silvia and José to bring Nueva Vida Recovery Café to life!

Note to Emerging Member Cafés: To learn more about Immersion Visits, contact your Emerging Member Manager by email.

Silvia, Patty, and José had a chance to check out Seattle’s Public Market: Pike Place.