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Flood: For volunteers and hospice patients, Spanish is their love language


Jacobo Dieppa’s fondest memory is spending time with family and friends in the Cuban household in Miami where he grew up.

Now living with his only daughter, Elena, in Phoenix, the 91-year-old Hospice of the Valley patient still yearns to be around people.

That’s why both are so grateful for Brian Robles, a Spanish-speaking volunteer who visits every week.

His companionship lifts the spirits of Señor Jacobo and also gives Elena a break from being a full-time caregiver.

“It’s made a huge difference. Without this socialization, my father would be depressed,” Elena shares. “He loves his volunteer!”

Brian started volunteering eight years ago, after a close relative received compassionate care from the nonprofit hospice.

“I liked Hospice of the Valley’s mission and holistic approach,” he recalls. “There is tremendous value in the services provided for families on a hospice journey.”

Though he was born in the U.S., Brian lived in Guatemala until middle school. “Spanish is my first language and is at the forefront of my identity.”

When a patient like Jacobo, who can speak English, requests a Spanish-speaking volunteer, Brian feels honored to provide support in his patient’s native language.

“I know that Jacobo is craving that cultural connection,” Brian says.

Despite his full-time job and juggling the demands of a growing family, the new Mesa homeowner has found a way to carve out a few hours each week to be there for Jacobo.

“This kind of service is badly needed in the Hispanic community,” Brian shares. “And volunteering has been very grounding. Every patient is different, there’s always something to learn.”

The relationship between volunteer and patient is a two-way street. On a recent visit, Jacobo shared some parenting advice with 32-year-old Brian, who will be a first-time dad soon. The two have grown close.

“Brian is a really good guy with a big heart,” Jacobo reflects. “I love his company. I treat him like family.”

Lin Sue Flood is community engagement director with Hospice of the Valley.