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Heal the Healers Profile: Hugo Villa
The Village Family Services specializes in providing permanency and safety for neglected and abused children in Southern California. Hugo Villa, LMFT, is the organization's co-founder and Chief Executive Officer.
Reunion: How long have you worked in your current field?
Hugo Villa: I received my degree in Clinical Psychology in Argentina in 1985. I have been working in this field for 26 years.
Reunion: What made or inspired you to go into this field?
HV: I am passionate about children and parenting issues. Child rearing was my major in school. When I moved to the United States, I specialized in marriage and family issues as well as child abuse and neglect and the devastating impact that abuse has on children and families.
Reunion: How did you come to be involved with The Village Family Services?
HV: I co-founded The Village Family Services with Irma Seilicovich, the best business partner that I could have ever found. We were working with children in foster care and saw the need for bilingual, bicultural services for Latino families that were recent immigrants to Los Angeles. This was the inspiration to develop the organization.
Reunion: What do you find the most challenging about this kind of work?
HV: Fundraising, definitely. Acquiring private donations and unrestricted monies is one of the most challenging issues of the not-for-profit world, especially during hard economic times like the one we are experiencing now.
Reunion: If you feel comfortable sharing, what is one of the more challenging things you’ve had to experience or watch someone experience in your time doing this work?
HV: Every time a child is killed by a parent or a caretaker, it is like the world collapses in front of my eyes. It is hard to believe, especially since I have become a father, that a human being can harm an innocent child. Unfortunately, we have to deal from time to time with these cases and help not only the survivors but our staff of dedicated workers and therapists as well as the community at large with the effects of secondary trauma or vicarious trauma.
Reunion: What is the most rewarding thing you have ever experienced or watched somebody experience in your time doing this work? HV: Without any doubt, the most rewarding experience for me would be the adoption of my son, Robert. Reunion: Do you have a regular self-care OR wellness practice? If so, what is it?
HV: I work with a personal trainer twice a week and I go to the gym four times a week. I watch my diet. I get enough sleep. I enjoy my friends regularly and I allow myself both physical and emotional intimacy. I love to have fun with my partner and my son, and I try to laugh a lot.
Reunion: At what point did you realize the importance of self-care?
HV: I have always been mindful of the importance of self-care. I love good massages and body treatments. However, it was not until a few years ago when I experienced the Heal the Healers program of the Joyful Heart Foundation that I realized the importance of relaxation, yoga and meditation. I am still struggling to relax and meditate throughout the day, but I am more active and aware now.
Reunion: This work can be hard on the people who do it. Has your organization established any mechanisms to deal with burnout and vicarious trauma or to nurture an environment that promotes self-care?
HV: Yes, we have. During the last couple of years our staff has gone through a one year training program on self-care techniques and improving communication. We have been lucky enough to send most of our wraparound staff and some of our therapists to the Joyful Heart Heal the Healers programs. We are constantly looking for avenues that promote self-care.