Bill Sarno CTLatinoNews.com
Stamford has bid a fond adios to Miriam Arzola, a Chilean immigrant who is returning to her homeland to care for her ill father after having been a “super volunteer” for many local organizations and charitable programs during her 12 years in the Connecticut city.
To celebrate her contributions, Stamford celebrated Miriam Arzola Day about a week before her June 10 scheduled departure for South America. This event was set up with an awareness that she might never return to this country, or at least be gone for many years, because of her immigration status.
Mayor David L. Martin said Arzola “has lived the principle to ‘be the change that you wish to see’ in our community” and “selflessly contributed in many ways.”
Philip Berns, co-vice chairman of the Hispanic Advisory Council of Greater Stamford (HACGS), who helped organize the ceremony held at his law office, said “Miriam is a soldier who gets right into the thick of things when it comes to civic involvement.”
On HACGS’s Facebook site, Arzola is hailed as “our own super volunteer.” Bern, who has worked with Arzola on projects such as the annual Hispanic Health Fair, said, “she pushes the marker two notches forward.”
Being recognized by HACGS and the mayor brought tears to Arzola, said Berns, who added, “She was completely caught off guard.”
“It meant so much to hear I was really appreciated when it was my job to support them,” Arzola said later in the day of her involvement with the Hispanic agency and other local organizations.
In Chile, Arzola’s desire to benefit her community will continue, but in a less structured way. She explained that in her homeland what would be considered volunteerism in the United States is part of her life and culture. “Everyone tries to help others,” she said.
In Stamford, one of Miriam Arzola’s most visible roles and her favorite activity has been as a member of a group of volunteers who dress as clowns to children at Stamford Hospital. She expressed thanks to this troupe for letting her participate.
In her last days before leaving Stamford on June 10 and with the likelihood of returning to Connecticut undetermined, Arzola continued her volunteer activities. Her schedule included putting on her clown costume to visit the pediatric cancer center at the hospital and participating in the Hope in Motion fundraising walk and run, a fundraiser for the Bennett Cancer Center at Stamford Hospital.
She regrets very much having to say good-bye knowing that she cannot come back to see them for at least 10 years as her “punishment” for staying in the U.S. after her visa lapsed.
Arzola was drawn to the United States out of a desire to learn English as well as her native language, Spanish. She was also eager to learn about the American culture. She arrived with no family here and the friends she has made as a volunteer are now very much part of her family, she said.
Arzola has been a volunteer for community programs such as Neighbors Link Stamford, an agency that helps immigrants find employment, and at DOMUS, a youth education center that was the site of the 2014 Hispanic Health Fair. Arzola played a key role in the organization of the Hispanic Health Fair, is a founding volunteer of the Connecticut Legal Services wage clinic and an active alumni of the Parent Leadership Training Center, Mayor Wright said.
Last fall, a local TV station, Channel 12, cited Arzola as a Hometown Hero for helping start the health fair and for her volunteer work to cheer up children at Stamford Hospital.