Shubhada Saxena has worked hard to improve the lives of immigrant seniors in Austin. Her organization SAIVA enables seniors to give back to their community. In the beginning the organization was solely supported by Shubhada’s family foundation, the Saxena Foundation, to help provide transportation to seniors to enable them to volunteer. Saxena’s long term goal is to create culture sensitive senior housing.
Saxena has been recognized as a “trailblazer” for her work done with seniors in Austin. She is also seen as a “door opener” for seniors in Austin due to her own family member being dependent on the adult children. This causes isolation, depression and feeling lonely. But with Saxena’s organization and leadership, she has created independence, happiness and confidence among the senior immigrant women. For the seniors being apart of SAIVA, the love one feels more like an asset instead of a burden.
Saxena became passionate about empowering immigrant seniors and their families when her mother-law retired. She moved in with her family and experienced dementia, depression and loneliness. She observed first hand what she went through. She had worked for over 30 years. She needed socialization. SAIVA was created. The word means meaningful contribution.
Since she started her organization Saxena states she has seen the seniors have meaningful lives, a purpose, something to look forward to. The participants go out during the week two to three times. They began to smile, their energy increase and they become able to do so much more. They recently fed 300 students studying for exam for finals. Most of the seniors have a cooking connection because they took care of their families. Saxena organizes transport to different locations. The popular activity is the therapy dolls made for Dell cancer kids, 46 dolls were completed last week. All activities are done with love and care. There are many other activities to keep them busy and motivated such as gardening, community volunteer day, school supply kits and more.
SAIVA provides caregiver support to families. It allows their love one to be apart of the community and experience other people. Most of the seniors are immigrants living with their families who work, have children and may not always give attention to their loved one. However, it is not done intentionally. Saxena stated “I was able to care for my mother-in-law. “I chose to take care of her and be her primary caregiver.” But not everyone is privilege to have that choice. This is where SAIVA assist the family.
The most common issue most immigrants have is the language barrier, accented English, mode of dress barrier, dot on forehead, not knowing if accepted. But with SAIVA they are allotted volunteer opportunities that bring them together. They can share their common issues such as health care and shared information. They become comfortable because they can speak their language and be understood and accepted. They can discuss cultural issues and issues that may affect them but due to language barriers are unable to share.
Saxena stated receiving the 2014 Women of the Year award “is a huge huge honor. I did not expect it, but maybe I will have a platform to speak from and say things and get more things done.” Saxena feels it will be effective in getting her a seat at table to discuss community issues. It will enhance her opportunity to be at the table. She can help bring people together to find solutions together.
Ujima congratulates Saxena on her award.
For more information about SAIVA visit http://www.saiva.org.
Short Youtube video about on how SAIVA is addressing the problems of senior immigrants visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=69HfSXza-FO