My Y Story: Lily Chavez

Iraida Munoz & Lily ChavezMy Y Story: Lily Chavez

“In class we don’t speak the same language, we feel love and positive energy.”

“I love the YMCA! I love it because of the different people I’ve met and all the cultures here. Every person has love inside. I love that about this place,” YMCA member Lily Chavez said.

A member of the Y for the past year, Lily shared: “I really feel welcomed coming here. I developed healthy relationships with others, even if we aren’t from the same culture,” she said. “All the people are always smiling, saying ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ Even when I’m in a rush to go, they call out to me. I really love that environment!”

A native of Mexico, Lily speaks and understands a little English. That didn’t slow her down from joining the Y when she was referred through Lamprey Health Care’s NH Healthy Lives program.

Lily was referred to the Y from a community health worker at Lamprey Health. The program is targeted toward adults that have diabetes, high blood pressure, or high cholesterol, giving them the opportunity to enroll in the Healthy Lives program under NHHL. This program provides free membership to local gyms such as the Y, yoga classes, and self-monitoring blood pressure programs, so patients can improve their health and learn to manage these chronic conditions.

Lily Chavez

Lily became fast friends with our welcoming group Exercise Instructor Iraida Muñoz, who served as interpreter for this interview.

“I welcomed her to the class and Lily has made a lot of friends here,” Iraida said. “I wanted to help Lily transition to more of what the YMCA has to offer. I am one of a few group exercise and swimming instructors who speak Spanish. I was happy to make her comfortable and teach her how to swim,” Iraida said. “She is the sweetest lady and an amazing cook! Lily and her husband came to the United States from Mexico in 1988 and lived in Los Angeles for a time. Life situations changed for Lily and she ended up relocating to Nashua, NH. Lily fought very hard to move forward and raise her children alone in a foreign country in the best way she could. Today, her 3 children are successful and professional adults. Her eldest daughter Marisol works as a health professional in Boston. Yesenia, is a licensed nursing assistant at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center. Her eldest son, Christian, is a professional and is married with two children.

Our YMCA welcomes everyone and many new Americans have found a sense of community and have made friendships at the Y. At this point we do not have bilingual staff at the Welcome Center at every shift. We know that those whose first language is not English can find it difficult to navigate the YMCA. We rely on our bilingual members to help us at times. “The language barrier is huge for some people. Lily was very shy and it wasn’t easy at first making connections. My goal is to help people learn more about Y programs and services. Some members that come into the studio to dance and workout don’t know about other YMCA programs or how to access them. I want to help them,” Iraida said.

The YMCA is eager to hire more bilingual staff members to help us communicate with the diverse populations that we serve. Click to see our current job openings.

“My first encounter using the pool was through attending Leslie’s Zumba class one day. Another member, Teresa Lorenzo gave me confidence enough to go in the water. Teresa got me a floater. She told me these words I still member: ‘just relax and enjoy yourself in the water.’  And that was me not knowing how to swim. I came and enjoyed myself in the water and used the float,” Lily said.

“One day I came in and the pool was busy, there was a team practice. I heard music in Spanish from the hallway and I said to myself ‘I’m going to see that!’ I looked through the door of the dance studio and Iraida said ‘Come in!’ I felt very attracted and I knew that I wanted to dance with that music!”.

At the end of the class, Iraida said: “Keep coming.” And I did. I love her class, her music, and her dance steps. “I love all the diversity of those who come to class. I love the environment,” Lily said.

Iraida and Lily have formed a fast friendship.

Lily ChavezOne day, Iraida saw Lily using snorkeling goggles in the pool and jumped right in to help teach Lily to learn to swim. “Iraida taught me the basics of swimming. Since that day, I never used the snorkeling goggles! Another day I met another friend in dance class (Pue). She told me she was going to help me out on how to swim as well. She encouraged me to learn. She encouraged me to get in the center of the pool. It was very scary to me. I had no idea how to swim. She pushed me and I decided to do it.”

That’s how I really started. After swimming lessons with Iraida, I practiced for months. I had the support of friends,” Lily said.

“She practiced every week. Lily is self-taught. When she sets out to do something for herself, she succeeds,” Iraida said.

“For me, it’s hard to put it into words. Although I don’t speak much English, I feel welcome. I feel like our friendship grew and went beyond the YMCA. We hung out as friends,” Lily said.

One of her new Y friends is Channy. They get together outside of the Y frequently, going out to lunch or dinner, and sometimes shopping. “We don’t speak the same language, but we have a strong friendship. Channy wants to learn Spanish, by emersion. And I want her to speak in English. So I practice and learn with her.

“I have met many close friends at the Y from all over the world.” Some of Lily’s closest friends that she met at the Y are: Channy (from Cambodian parents); Loreen (from Jamaica), Kely (from Brazil), Rosita (from Kenya), Pue (from Thailand), Michelle (from NH) and Emma (from Puerto Rico) and Iraida (originally from Puerto Rico). “That’s what you find in class: people from all over the world!” said Iraida. “In class we don’t speak the same language, we feel love and positive energy. We have that in common.”Channy & Lily

Lily said: “Right now, the most important medical aspect for me is how I feel now mentally. In the past I had a lot of anxiety and isolation, because I only stayed at home… it made me very sad. Now when I come to the Y I feel calm, happy and much better with myself. And now I know that I can really do a lot more.” At this stage of my life I can focus more on my health and I enjoy what I do for my health and my body. I am not yet a swimming or fitness professional, but I have made progress and am very proud of my accomplishments.” “With my story I hope to be able to encourage others like me who may be afraid of the language, but who do have the desire to progress and feel healthier and happier with themselves.”

Stay up to date on what's happening in your community! Subscribe to our blog for events, announcements, and stories.

If it's not what you expected, unsubscribe at any time.