Juan Felipe Diaz Gutierrez
Throughout his first semester at Vanderbilt University, Juan Felipe explored a plethora of service organizations. He was involved in the building of houses for families in need with Habitat for Humanity. As a part of Grassroots, a service organization on campus, he visited Dismas House every Friday to cook, have dinners and converse with the ex offenders living there. During that semester, Juan Felipe also served as a Spanish tutor for a high school girl with Vanderbilt’s School for Science and Engineering and volunteered to pack food at the Second Harvest food bank.
Towards the end of the semester, he applied to become an official translator for Kiva, the world’s largest online micro finance company. Working for Kiva allowed him to take advantage of his language skills to help connect lenders and borrowers in need around the world, by reviewing and translating loan profiles from Spanish to English. His involvement with this organization has improved his understanding on how micro financing can be an alternative to break the poverty cycle in developing countries. Being able to read the stories and learn about the dreams of people from all around is what he enjoys the most about working with Kiva. It amazes him to see how the loans he translates receive funding in a matter of days from the most diverse group of borrowers. Juan Felipe looks forward to continue contributing to Kiva’s efforts.
Throughout his second semester, Juan Felipe’s service was more focused. He served the homeless in Nashville by teaching a Spanish class at Room in the Inn, Nashville’s second largest homeless shelter. He learned that long-term commitment to a service project is the only way to build meaningful relationships with the community and the staff. Through this class, he was able to build strong relationships with his students and increase his understanding of homelessness.
During spring break, Juan Felipe participated in the National Coalition for the Homeless’ “Homeless Challenge” program, in which he lived on the streets of Washington D.C as a homeless man for two days. This was a very enriching, eye-opening and educational experience for him because although he had interacted with the homeless community on a daily basis through his work at Room in the Inn, “going homeless” provided him with a unique perspective on the current challenges of this widespread societal problem.
Juan Felipe looks forward to continue working with the homeless in Nashville and in particular to finding solutions to the underlying causes of homelessness. Furthermore, he wishes to take advantage of his position in the board of Grassroots to engage Vanderbilt students with service related to the homeless in Nashville. He also plans to start his own service organization on campus by collaborating with other Ingram Scholars. Finally, he looks forward to planning a meaningful and effective summer project.