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HSD Employee Spotlight—Karen Valle

Close-up headshot of Karen

What is your role at Seattle Human Services?

As a Senior Grants and Contracts Specialist in the Safe and Thriving Communities Division and Mayor’s Office on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault unit, I oversee contracts related to domestic violence, sexual assault, and commercial sexual exploitation. I provide technical assistance to agencies and support in building a safety network for survivors who seek help. My hope is that everyone, including those with language barriers, can get the resources they need to be safe.

What made you want to work in human services?

Prior to joining HSD, I worked as a Supervisory Visa Specialist at the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Manila, Philippines. My job was to work with immigrants and refugees applying to immigrate to the U.S. Part of my job was to advise spouse and fiancée visa applicants about their right to inform authorities and get connected with different resources if or when they become victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, or trafficking. This information is critical to the wellbeing of immigrants and refugees, so we made sure that the information pamphlet was translated from English to Tagalog (most used language by Filipinos).

When I joined HSD/MODVSA, I was excited that my work here connected in many ways to my previous job at the Embassy. Working and helping my fellow immigrants and refugee community has been a huge part of my life for more than 20 years and I love it.

When I also learned that I could volunteer as an Interpreter for a nonprofit organization that help immigrants and refugees with their legal needs, I didn’t hesitate. I have been a Volunteer Interpreter for more than three years now. I love assisting my community with their language access needs, questions about their immigration applications, and resources available to immigrants.

How has your job changed in recent years?

I have held several different positions in HSD. I started out supporting the whole team and learned about the criminal legal system from our systems partners. I learned about HSD’s investment processes when I supported MODVSA’s planning team and became familiar with HSD’s invoicing and financial processes as I supported the contracting team.

Karen received a 2019 MAX Award from her HSD colleagues honoring her as an Unsung Hero

Over the years, I realized I truly enjoy working with our contractors and learning about their work. I try and do what I can to support their work and help them in challenges they may have regarding their contract with HSD.

COVID-19 changed how we interact with our internal and external customers. Suddenly, we all needed to become computer savvy in virtual meetings and learn how to connect meaningfully with our peers and with leadership. I couldn’t imagine myself adjusting but eventually loved work from home—it provides more room to improve our work/life balance.

What do you love about your job?

I love the people I work with and how our work is interconnected in making survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault safe, housed, and empowered to live safely and to thrive. I love how we constantly invest and fund organizations that provide culturally relevant services to address gaps and needs of our BIPOC, immigrant, refugee, disabled, youth, and LGBTQIA communities.

How do you contribute to HSD’s overarching goals related to racial equity?

Through the relationships that I’ve built with our community providers, I learn about barriers that survivors face when they are trying to get help. They tell me the trauma that not only survivors deal with, but what staff deal with, too. As a Program Specialist, I make sure I am listening to the community and advocating for the needs of the most vulnerable.

What motivates you or keeps you going?

To know that my work is making a difference to survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

What’s one piece of advice for HSD newcomers or recent graduates in your field?

Find your passion—work in a field that brings you joy and fulfillment.