Yoly has been living in Arlington for 15 years now. Originally from Peru and here on a 3-year contract as a nanny for a World Bank employee, Yoly was able to find continuing work in childcare and elder care just after her assignment ended. Today she is a US citizen and, like many, she struggles with underemployment and low-wage jobs.
Yoly has found intermittent work as a housekeeper for a local hotel. She cleans 30 rooms every day she is called in to work. “No overtime,” she says. “You do your 30 rooms, it doesn’t matter how long it takes. That is too much for me. I’m 50 years old. And I have a thyroid condition — the kind where you feel tired a lot.” She considers finding more accommodating work, with a more predictable schedule, but there are hurdles. “I’ve been out of work for three years now — regular, full-time work. Maybe I get an hour here, and hour there, taking care of children or old people. But for the full time jobs now they want you to have a driver’s license and a car; they want you to have a certificate for taking care of children or old people. I don’t have the money to learn to drive or to pay for lessons in child care or elder care.”
Yoly’s situation is compounded by limited access to food. Because she has managed to save some money from her past intermittent work, and because she does not have children, Yoly does not qualify for food stamps. Recently at wits end, underemployed and facing crisis, she was compelled to ask for help. “The social worker there (Ballston Community Center) wasn’t much help in getting work, but she did send me to AFAC. I eat whatever they give me here — fruits, vegetables, pasta, spaghetti sauce, salad greens.”
Yoly is very appreciative for the food she receives from AFAC, but does have a few items on her wish list. “Some of my favorite foods you won’t find at AFAC: Quinoa for example, or cuye (guinea pig). Here they just sell guinea pigs as pets, but in Peru we use them for meat.” Her voice brightened when asked about her favorite time in the kitchen, “I like to cook. One of my specialties is Guiso de Trigo, steamed wheat grains. It’s flavored with yellow chili peppers — I like picante food. Also, there’s garlic, onion, parsley and grated cheese. You serve it with fried fish. Or ceviche.”
Yoly is finding some hope in AFAC’s help.