From Client to Ally: Mano en Mano’s Evolving Relationship with Community Members
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “client” as “a person served by or utilizing the services of a social agency”, for example, “a welfare client”. “Client” is derived from the Latin word cliens, which implies the individual as a follower or retainer. Essentially, a client is one who followed his patron and was a dependent to some extent.
A great majority of governmental agencies use the word client to describe the relationship with those they serve. “Client” is appropriate in the contemporary—it has evolved to describe a professional relationship between provider and recipient, or between an agency and participant. Mano en Mano | Hand in Hand seeks to “build a stronger community in Downeast Maine by working with diverse populations to provide educational and affordable housing opportunities, remove barriers to health and social services, and advocate for social justice.”
Members of the parent advocacy group “Hagamos el cambio pro nuestros hijos” (Let’s make change for our children) design translation and interpretation request forms that will be implemented in MSAD#37.
Mano en Mano is considered an organization that dispenses aid to individuals, and we have adopted the word client to describe our relationship with community members to whom we provide the aforementioned services. A social worker, a spa, an attorney, an interpreter, a medical provider, or an electronics corporation may have clients, but client does not necessarily describe the kind of relationship—or shall we say, fellowship—we wish to cultivate with members of the community here.
Mano en Mano’s Community Advocacy programming promotes leadership development and self-efficacy for community members. We seek to increase the capacity of the community to seek resources and change on its own, while simultaneously encouraging service providers to serve community members without need for Mano en Mano’s services.
Mobilizing a community requires the active and lively participation of its members. But beyond cooperation, we need the talents, strengths, patience, and leadership of every individual. A fellowship is defined as “a group of people meeting to pursue a shared interest or aim.” As we join in solidarity to advocate for social justice, near and far, we hope to shed the provider-client definition of our relationships. Mano en Mano regards community members as allies, as we work towards “a world where solidarity is evident in the actions of individuals, businesses, and organizations; a world where people treat each other with respect, recognizing our common humanity, our differing cultures, and our unique abilities; a world where racism, prejudice, and discrimination no longer exist.”
“If we don’t change direction, then we’re likely to end up where we’re headed.” — Chinese Proverb