By Claudia Córdova
I am happy to be able to write about my work experience with Newsela. I am a native Mexican who lived in Venezuela for 35 years, where I met my Venezuelan husband Félix, who also works with Newsela as a leveler. I work as an English-Spanish translator. Working with Newsela has been much more than just a work relationship, it has become an important part of our lives.
My husband is an attorney at law, but he also became a Certified English-Spanish translator, just as I did while working as a private tutor. As the Venezuelan economy began to collapse by the year 2014, Félix and I began to read the writing on the wall. I said to myself, “we cannot live only on bolívares (the Venezuelan currency) we need to have some backup, we need to look beyond Venezuela”. Fortunately, an acquaintance of mine told me about these freelancing pages that existed and after doing some research, I joined Odesk and Elance (now merged into Upwork). I began to have some international clients through these means and lo and behold among them came Newsela! Never expecting it would become one of my best working experiences as a professional translator!
I started working with Newsela in March 2015 and Félix in October of that same year. We were welcomed as part of the contributor team by Rachel Williams, who is now the Director of Content Operations at Newsela. I felt very comfortable with them from the very beginning. The onboarding process was very clear and well guided. One of the things I liked the most from the start was the perfect communication. You could always write when in need of assistance and receive almost an immediate response which is always helpful. The respectful, honest and reliable work relationship we’ve always had has also played an important role in the pleasure I feel in working with them. I was also amazed from the very beginning at how open they are to feedback and opinion, responding favorably to it and I am also thankful for the fair price points they offer.
From the very beginning we were a perfect match. I love reading and writing and have tutored kids for many years, and they were all about creating educational content for children through articles, a translation field I really enjoy. I am also very pleased in seeing how much Felix enjoys the job as well.
As the years went by, the Venezuelan situation became worse and worse. The beautiful country had spiraled into total mayhem, something that made our hearts ache, for we love the country and to me it had become just as much a home country as Mexico, and I am very thankful for all the wonderful experiences it has provided to me. All throughout, Newsela was always there for us; it was consistent, reliable and constantly providing us with work that helped us make ends meet. They were aware that our Internet connectivity was among the worst in the world which could make claiming tasks difficult, so they would sometimes assign us tasks directly to help us cope with this problem. They were concerned about our situation and sometimes wrote asking how we were. So, you see, Newsela was also becoming like a work family to us. Thanks to Newsela and other clients, we were able to ship basic goods from abroad a couple of times, such as toilet paper, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and even share with friends. The bolivar (Venezuelan currency) had become so worthless that people would joke saying it was more useful as toilet paper, which we lacked.
We had had draught season for over four years, and all along we had a water shortage and the government rationed water in such a way that we were able to have running water one hour three times a day, but by the year 2017 the situation had become critical and we only had access to the precious liquid 10 minutes once a day. We had an auxiliary water tank in the apartment, but it could not be filled up in such a short period of time. It was becoming impossible to wash, bathe or cook.
All throughout the crisis we participated in some of the marches and protests. We helped block streets as part of the civilian fight against the government. A couple of times we had to run to escape the gas bombs the military would throw at us. We lived one block away from one of the main squares of the city where protests would take place and could hear the constant gas bombing, screaming and sometimes even gunshots from our apartment. In a couple of occasions gas even entered our home. We felt sorry for the little children, the old people and the sick who lived in the area and had difficulty breathing. We were witnesses to the daily suffering and systematic destruction at all levels. What may be seen on the news or on social media is only but a glimpse.
We tried to stay in Venezuela for as long as we could, we wanted to see our country freed from such horror. But then the power started failing in Caracas and so did the Internet. This had been something common in the other states for years but not in Caracas, and we began to seriously ask ourselves if it was time for us to leave, for how could we survive if our work was online? It was a very difficult decision, but had it not been for Newsela, one of our main sources of income which had allowed us to save money, we would have never been able to even consider the possibility. So, there it was, after serious pondering and meditation the time came to join the four or so million people who had already left the country. We had to leave almost everything behind but, again, thanks to our steady job with Newsela and the support from my Mexican family we were able to start from scratch in a country that, though my home country, was also new to us. We left Venezuela for good in September 2018.
We recently visited Newsela’s Headquarters in New York. It was a pleasure to meet some of the people we have had such a friendly relationship with for years in person. It was also a pleasure to get to meet Matt Gross, the founder and CEO of Newsela. Who would have known that out of his wish to provide essential and engaging reading experiences to children, he would have ended up with such an amazing platform that has influenced so many lives from near and afar… such as us!
I wish to close this by saying that I cannot help but see the hand of a Higher Universal Force in all this, for I am truly convinced that we are all but a tiny piece of a much bigger picture who are invited to become instruments of Life by following our hearts in good will and by staying true to our conscience. I wish to thank everyone that has contributed to all this and above all I wish to thank Life who is always there to assist you. Praise be to Life!