Juvy Barbonio

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“I arrived in San Francisco 2001. I actually planned on coming here as a tourist but decided to stay, and after three months decided to get married. And after three months, I petitioned my children and in 2008 they came here.

I’m from Bicol, but I was a licensed Social Worker with the Department of Social Work in Paranaque. After three years, I landed in politics for ten years; I was a Barangay Councilor, or Kagawad.

But once I was living here in the City, I was doing odd jobs. Eventually I got a chance to do the same work that I did in the Philippines. I started with caregiving jobs, and then became assistant program aid in one of the elderly health centers in the Tenderloin.

So I went to one of the agencies because I asked them to help me to be connected with the Philippine social workers here in San Francisco – and I was lucky enough to be connected to the Canon Kip Senior Center. So that’s where I started doing my social work.

I think it’s also because Lolita Kintanar gave me the opportunity. She’s one of my mentors here in the South of Market, and I’m really thankful because if she had not given me the opportunity, I think that I would still be a caregiver during this time.

After a year in the Tenderloin, I transferred to SoMa. From there, because I lived and worked in the same community, I was able to help a lot of Filipinos here. SoMa to me is like home away from home, because there’s a lot of Filipinos here – I can still feel that Filipino spirit of bayanihan. I don’t feel that I’m alone.

I joined SOMCAN part-time in 2007, for two or three years. Then in 2014, I was given the chance to come aboard full-time as the United Families Coordinator, with a special focus on case work.

I’m a mother of three – one girl and two boys. I have five grandkids already. They’re all with me in the Bay Area now. I have three grandkids, here with me, and two are still in the Philippines.”

PeoplePaul Barrera