13:35 PM

Community Impact: Ser Familia

What started as a personal passion has evolved into an organization that serves thousands of Latinos in North Georgia and prepares hundreds of volunteers to serve other families.

Ser Familia, Inc.’s mission is to strengthen, revitalize, and equip Latino youth, couples, parents and families through programs and services that empower them to thrive and enjoy a healthy family environment. The nonprofit has more than 72 programs with 200 volunteers to help facilitate its services.

Almost 20 years ago, Miguel and Belisa Urbina began helping couples who were having relationship difficulties. Both natives of Puerto Rico, they noticed the lack of local programs for couples in Spanish.

“Your feelings are in your native language,” Belisa said. “When you’re talking about love and other emotions, your natural reaction is to express it in your native language.”

Miguel and Belisa started Ser Familia in 2001 to serve Latino families. Over the years, the organization has grown to include parenting classes, workshops for youth and teens, family counseling, and support for victims of domestic violence.

“You see the transformation in families,” said Belisa, who is also the executive director of the organization.

Ser Familia has been successful, according to Belisa, because it strives for families participating in its programs to later serve as volunteers. Those volunteers work along aside professionals at Ser Familia to provide counseling to families and individuals.

“There is a problem with mental health, especially among youth,” said Belisa. “More teens are suffering from depression and talk about suicide.”

The Jackson EMC Foundation recently awarded Ser Familia a $12,500 grant to provide mental health services for its Spanish-speaking clients. The funds will be used to prepare a child’s play therapy room at its Buford office and telemedicine services to link clients with medical professionals.

Belisa said the grant will help some of its youngest clients get the support they need.

“We have children who have been victims of sexual violence,” she said. “We have children who have witnessed sexual violence.”

Besides providing families with love and support, Ser Familia uses its multi-disciplinary approach to encourage clients to become self-sufficient, Belisa said.

Ser Familia also received a $7,500 grant from the Jackson EMC Foundation in July 2016 to provide mental health counseling services, including for victims of domestic violence and sexual, and for suicide counseling.

For more information, visit serfamilia.org.