We had the good fortune of connecting with Chiqui Sanchez Kennedy and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Chiqui, we’d love to hear more about how you thought about starting your own business?
In 2020, I set out with my two coworkers, Liz and Vanessa, to create GHIRP, a non-profit legal services organization focused exclusively on immigration cases. We believe that all immigrants should have access to safety and autonomy, which is achieved when they have accessible, expert representation in our complex immigrant justice system. My goal is to increase free, high-quality services in Houston, and start the first organization on Galveston Island representing immigrants. As most Galvestonians will tell you, the bridge (causeway) acts as a big barrier to services on the mainland.
I have worked in non-profit organizations for nearly 14 years, and saw a need in our community for an independent, nimble organization like GHIRP focused exclusively on immigration legal services. GHIRP is not a national or state-wide organization, our services are singularly focused on immigration legal issues, our board members are local, and GHIRP management does not need to navigate competing interests (internally) to protect clients’ rights without limitations.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
GHIRP is a legal services organization that launched in October 2020 with a mission to build a resilient, diverse community by providing comprehensive representation and holistic legal services to immigrants in need. Inspired by the idea of fundamental fairness, Liz, Vanessa and I wanted to bring a new level of advocacy to an unserved population to meet the realities of our immigration justice system today. GHIRP strives every day to bring passion and skill to our clients who could not otherwise afford an attorney.
I have worked in many non-profit organizations, and have learned tremendously from each organization and experience. I went “all in” at every job and built skills that helped me get to where I am today. Certainly I believe that if you love what you do, are passionate about your clients, work collaboratively with others, and are driven to make change, you will be successful in whatever you set out to accomplish.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
My best friend would have to be very well-rested because it would be an active weekend. Here’s the itinerary:
That first afternoon my husband and I would walk them around my neighborhood (Montrose), and stop to get drinks and a bite to eat at Boheme (after I arranged for childcare for my 3 kids). We would then head to Westheimer and grab a get dinner at Hugos.
The next morning we’d go for a run on Buffalo Bayou. My family would take my friend to Galveston, where I am from, for an overnight trip. We’d go to the beach, eat local seafood, take a boat ride in the bayou, then have margaritas on the porch overlooking the bayou. Then we’d run the next morning on the Seawall and head back to Houston.
The last day we’d hang out at Hermann Park, have a picnic and visit the Menil, and cap off the day with an evening at St. Arnold’s.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
There are way too many people to thank and credit for our success. GHIRP’s initial funders trusted us to build something great and took a chance on us before our website was live. My friends and partners at Houston and other national immigration organizations working in this field supported me 110% from the beginning until now. And my parents, friends and family from all over the globe helped us open our doors. This was a community effort, no doubt.