As a young, college-aged reporter, there’s a tendency for people of our generation to look at the world a little too broadly and neglect the impact that people making a difference in our Latino community right here in our own backyard. A new found inspiration in my growth as an activist was reassured after connecting with Fabiola Hamdan.
Hamdan is a bi-cultural community senior social worker with Dane County Department of Human Services who works with a program called Joining Forces For Families. She is a strong advocate for the Hispanic community having created numerous programs and initiatives to support immigrants in the Latino community including domestic violence prevention efforts and improvements in family services. She has also created networks to increase awareness of child safety and parenting skills.
Where does she get most of her ideas and inspiration?
“I think from working with vulnerable individuals in need of help,” Hamdan tells Madison365. “When I see people in desperate need of assistance like housing, employment, education, etc. I feel that ‘we’ as a community need to step up and do something to make this community a better one. For example, the Latino community has many barriers and obstacles that can be worked on. I think all of us should join on this journey, a journey that will make Dane County a place we are all proud to call nuestro hogar, our home.”
Hamdan’s extensive knowledge of social work, curriculum building, and collaborative activities has built foundations here in Wisconsin that continue to impact families. An immigrant from Bolivia, her continued activism and social work has given Latinos, people of color, and low-income families a sense of hope. Like many of us Latinos, one of her favorite places for thinking and strategizing is in the space of her own home.
“My children mean the world to me … I have two boys that are the center of my attention,” she says. “They are what really inspires me.”
With children on her mind, Hamdan founded “El Dia de Los Niños,” a yearly event that increases awareness about child safety and parenting. El Día de los Niños (The Day of the Children) has its roots in Latin America, although it is also celebrated in Asian and European countries. It is a worldwide celebration of the child and family. This day recognizes children, pays homage to their importance in society, and endorses their well-being. This year’s El Dia de Los Niños will be held May 7th at the Goodman Community Center and it reiterates Hamdan’s desire to build a supportive community that looks for stability in helping children and youth.
“It’s become a tradition for the Latino community in Dane County and something that so many area children really look forward to attending,” Hamdan says.
Hamdan’s important work in the Madison community has been recognized numerous times: She received the 2012 UW McDowell Alumni Achievement award, the 2012 Muriel Pipkins Award, the 2011 YWCA Madison Women of Distinction Awards, and the 2003 Distinguished Service Award from the National Association of Social Workers in Madison.
Hamdan is a driving force behind the creation of several organizations including the Latino support group LaSup, which brings together people working for and in the Latino community.
“I am also the founder and chair of the Latino Children and Families Council in Dane County,” Hamdan says. “I serve as a regular guest lecturer of UW-Madison and Madison College. In addition, I have supervised and mentored many Latino UW-Madison graduate and undergraduate student interns for the past sixteen years.”
Hamdan has over 17 years of experience in community social work and continues to engage in many activities to benefit the Latino population in Dane County. She has created and facilitated Housing Groups that network with housing case managers from Dane County to better provide housing services for children, youth, and Latino families. Hamdan serves as an inspiration to young Latinos and her work has changed lives on a local and a national level.
“Latinos are members of our community, people whose lives represent the fabric of our community. I am so lucky to work with many of them. They share with me their personal stories, their fears and their dreams. They are hard-working immigrants whose dreams are our dreams,” Hamdan says. “I am committed to make a difference, to help them achieve the American dream. To do that, I work hard to engage with people and organizations that think and work outside of the box to help them reach their goals.”