Supporting our community with free tax preparation in NYC wouldn’t be possible without our hardworking and dedicated volunteers. Each year, we are honored to work with more than 100 new and returning people who selflessly share their time, knowledge, and energy.
Today we turn the spotlight on Wasilla Guiga-Lotfi, who has volunteered with us for four years!
The Community is Real
Thanks to her childhood in Tunisia, Wasilla always felt a sense of familiarity with the Bronx: the Latin food, music, and rich architecture felt similar to her homeland.
“In the Bronx, there are people who work hard to do their best for their kids,” she says. “The community is real.”
From Tunisia, Wasilla moved to France, where she studied agriculture, focusing on livestock production. The curriculum included economics because farms are businesses, each with its unique accounting systems. This led to her interest in exploring fiscal systems and a desire to understand why tax laws are the way they are.
“I discovered that the people who make the financial decisions [about tax laws] don’t know how people live,” Wasilla says.
She continued her studies in financial literacy after moving to New York in 1999 and met us here at Ariva in 2012, when she also became an American citizen.
Volunteering with Ariva
Wasilla came to Ariva to better understand the American tax system and to give back. It was with us that her desire to learn became a desire to give back through free tax preparation—and we couldn’t be more thankful for her generosity to our community.
Taxes are incomprehensible for many, especially those the system was designed to exclude. Wasilla supports Ariva clients through our NYC free tax preparation program and is particularly committed to supporting the NYC immigrant community.
“Immigrants are super hardworking people. I’m always impressed by the people I meet at Ariva: their persistence to keep working and pay taxes even though they don’t always receive services in exchange. Doing their taxes for free is the least I can do for them,” says Wasilla.
Impacting Lives Through Financial Inclusion
Wasilla’s approach to helping clients is one of care and patience. Many people who receive our free financial help or free tax help NYC are unfamiliar with the financial system, especially first-time employees. Seeing your hard-earned cash leave your paycheck every month can be tricky, but Wasilla emphasizes why paying taxes is so important.
“You rode the subway, you took the bus, you go to the hospital, your kids go to school—even though I don’t always agree with how the country’s budget is allocated, people still need to understand why they are paying taxes,” Wasilla says.
Many people don’t know the rules or fear getting into trouble. Wasilla uses her expertise to shed light on benefits clients may not know.
For example, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) made a huge difference for many of her clients with children. Qualified families may receive up to $3,000 per child ages 6-17 and $3,600 per child under 6. The credit provides financial support to American families to cover the cost of raising children and saving their futures. Our clients may not have received these benefits without our free tax filing NYC programs or the dedication of volunteers like Wasilla.
Benefits Of Serving Your Community
When asked about the best thing about volunteering at Ariva, Wasilla answered serving the community:
“There are so many interesting people to connect with through volunteering. I meet incredible people with the grit and will to succeed,” she says.
We couldn’t agree more.
In addition to cultivating meaningful relationships with staff, clients, and fellow volunteers, Wasilla values the educational benefits of volunteering with us. She’s improving her Spanish (her fourth language!), deepening her knowledge of financial systems, enjoys the energetic pace of the work, and is now familiar with many of the neighborhoods where we have tax services in NYC!
We are honored to have Wasilla part of our team. If you’re interested in positively impacting your community, become an Ariva Tax Preparation Volunteer today!