Stories of Change

Dayana at the CWS Jersey City office

Helping Migrants Through Human Connection

Dayana Cobo is a passionate staff member of the CWS New York team. Her passion and drive have led her to become a caseworker with Church World Service, supporting unaccompanied minors. What initially drew Dayana to CWS was our broad mission. As she explains, “I really love CWS’ mission and the fact that they were focused on helping immigrants and refugees.” She was inspired to see CWS serve diverse groups displaced by global crises, including those from Ukraine, Haiti, Central America and Uzbekistan.

In her role as a caseworker, Dayana works to forge human connections with clients before diving into services. Each initial video visit begins with a personal touch, as Dayana takes the time to get to know her clients on a personal level. She engages in conversations about their journey, their concerns and their excitement about the new chapter they are embarking on. Dayana emphasizes, “Our role extends beyond merely providing assistance; it’s about creating a safe space and ensuring our clients’ mental well-being is as important as their physical needs.” This deliberate approach to building rapport lays the foundation for trust.

An early case that stood out came just months into the job when Dayana supported a migrant family from rural South Carolina who spoke Uzbek. This rare language presented immense communication barriers. Through persistence and creativity, leveraging Russian interpretation services and Google Translate, Dayana secured an Uzbek-speaking lawyer, adult education classes in Russian and health insurance. As she recalls, “Not only did I utilize Google Translate and other interpreter services and hotlines we have, but I also had the added challenge of overcoming language barriers while searching for resources in a rural area. Despite this additional difficulty, I successfully managed to find everything they needed.” Overcoming linguistic and geographic obstacles highlighted the magic in this work for her.

Dayana has learned a gentle approach is essential for earning clients’ trust. When sponsors are initially resistant, she proposes just checking in weekly. As she explains, “eventually they actually end up opening up” through this dance of providing support while respecting hesitancy. The biggest lesson for Dayana has been recognizing, “if they don’t want it, they will also show you.”

Having gotten her start in psychology, Dayana sees the interplay between mental and physical health. She educates clients that just as they prioritize yearly checkups, they should do the same for their mental well-being. However, most are resistant to opening up about these needs while focused on immediate survival. As Dayana notes, “That’s a very touchy and sensitive topic, especially with our clients.” Pushing too hard could mean losing them altogether. Dayana thus focuses on listening, validating and gently connecting them with resources.

Though Dayana admits this work can be emotionally taxing, you would never know it from her constantly uplifted spirit. Her clients’ appreciation validates she is living her calling. She remains committed to compassionately walking with each family on their path forward.

Dayana is guided by a Hilary Duff quote, “Never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game.” As a first-generation college graduate pursuing her purpose, this motto resonates deeply with her. She has learned progress requires perseverance. By boldly trying new directions, Dayana found her passion—helping migrants through human connection. She continues listening, uplifting and lighting the way for those needing support.

You can learn more about the work done by the HSPRS team by clicking here