Monthly Archives: September 2012

Brie: New Citizens!

EACS Citizenship Program

Today, I walked out of my office to the commotion of excited voices and words of congratulations and thanks.  The few members of our office were crowded around two very proud and well-dressed men, one of whom had a small American Flag tucked into his sport jacket.  In each of their hands was a crisp certificate that they excitedly showed me as we shook hands.  These two men were new United States citizens. 

The mundane question-and-answer sessions I’ve grown so accustomed to hearing came swimming back to me:

“…Name one war the United States fought in the 1800s.”

“…Name one thing that Benjamin Franklin is most famous for.”

“…Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?”

They finally made it!  One man only received citizenship on his third try after months of citizenship classes and over 100 hours of tutoring, after being laid off from his job and re-hired multiple times, and after months of worrying this familiar face of East African Community Services was finally a US citizen.  Both he and his friend were beaming, and so was I when I realized that EACS was the first place they went to show off their new citizenship status.

Being a citizen of the United States can mean so many things.  After the two men rode their high out of the office, a fellow shiny-eyed employee told me that the first man had been one of her favorite clients.  It had been his third try to obtain citizenship. He was having a hard time holding down his job without citizenship, and the stress had begun to wear on him.  As a citizen he would be able to get a steadier job, and he could vote (registering to vote was the first thing he did as a US citizen).  But perhaps most poignantly, he could now bring his wife from Ethiopia.  She had been waiting for him for years.

The weight many of our refugee and immigrant clients experience is heavier than most Americans can know.   But knowing that EACS plays such a fundamental role in helping them live happier, more successful lives is a source of hope.

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Lauren: Summer Adventures a Success!

Quotes from volunteers in Somali Community Services Coalition’s Summer Adventures youth program–

 “The Summer Adventures program is just that – an adventure! It gives the students the opportunity to experience their community through various field trips like the Zoo, and the Aquarium; experiences that they otherwise might not get. It is a positive and energetic program that combines learning, creativity and fun!  Not only did I enjoy teaching the students, but I also enjoyed learning from them. They helped me better understand and appreciate the Somali culture, which is so prevalent in Washington State.”

 “Volunteering for SCSC has been an absolute delight. The staff creates a platform where the students can bond with volunteers in order to learn integral skills that will benefit them throughout their lives. You feel as though you make a positive difference every time you go to the center.”

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9/11 Day of Service

In honor of the 9/11 National Day of Service and Remembrance, the Refugee Support Network partnered with the Nature Consortium of West Seattle to help remove 1,500 square feet of invasive blackberry plants in the West Duwamish Greenbelt.

Here are some pictures of us hard at work!

Thanks to the Nature Consortium for such a great experience!

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Introducing three new VISTAs!

Three new VISTAs have recently joined the Refugee Support Network! Here’s an introduction to who they are and what they’ll be doing during their year with the RSN.

Cordelia Revells

Education Services Coordinator

Jewish Family Service

As the Education Services Coordinator VISTA at Jewish Family Services, Cordelia Revells works to increase the scope of educational opportunities for JFS adults and youth.  Since graduating from Oberlin College in 2010, Cordelia has worked in various education settings that serve immigrant communities and at-risk youth, and she is excited to continue this work at JFS.  In her free time, Cordelia enjoys reading, running, and exploring new areas. 

Briana Robertori

Resource Development Coordinator

East African Community Services

Hi, my name is Brie Robertori, and I just relocated from the SF Bay Area to be an AmeriCorps VISTA with East African Community Services (EACS).  After studying Anthropology and International Development as an undergraduate at the University of CA, Berkeley, I have been looking forward to the opportunity to work with international populations, and specifically underserved immigrants living in the US.  With this goal in mind, I’m excited to begin my position as Resource Development Coordinator at East African Community Services, an organization that provides social services and educational programming to East African refugees.  Since EACS’s inception in 2001, the organization has been evolving to fit the needs of its population.  Because navigating the American public school system poses one of the biggest challenges to our population, we have begun providing academic and mentorship programs to refugee youth. 

Working in this small but dynamic community based organization, I often get the question “Resource Development Coordinator . . . what does that mean?”  At the most basic level, it means that I am applying for grants with government, private, and corporate funders and cultivating relationships with funding sources.  Luckily for me, my job is so much more than just that.  I am also working with the Executive Director and Program Director to create EACS’ strategic funding plan.  In order to get to know the organization, my days are full of meetings with community based organizations, school administration, and state employees; self-directed grant research and professional development; and welcomed time away from the computer with the sweet and incredibly out-going kids from the community. 

Although the position will be challenging, I am excited for this opportunity to get to know EACS and the East African refugee population, and I know this year will be a profoundly rewarding one.

Siobhan Whalen

Youth Programs Coordinator

Coalition for Refugees from Burma

As the new VISTA Youth Programs Coordinator at the Coalition for Refugees from Burma, Siobhan Whalen will work with the Education Programs Manager to develop and expand youth programs such as parent workshops, cultural competency trainings for school faculty, and student mentoring programs. She will also be supervising CRB volunteers to support their work with the Burmese community.  By working with the talented staff at CRB, Siobhan hopes to make a valuable contribution to her localized international community.

Siobhan graduated from the University of New Hampshire with dual degrees in Anthropology and Sociology. While completing her undergraduate degrees she studied abroad in Rajasthan, India for four months with a program that emphasized social justice and development. Since graduating in 2010, Siobhan has been developing her communication and problem solving skills in the workforce, moving to a new city (Seattle, WA), and in her free time sewing and making arts and crafts. She is extremely excited and motivated to have a positive learning experience in this year of service.

Coalition for Refugees from Burma

Siobhan will be serving with the RSN’s newest partner organization, the Coalition for Refugees from Burma. The Coalition for Refugees from Burma (CRB) has been helping refugees from Burma since 2006. Established as a Mutual Assistance Association and registered 501c(3) in 2009, CRB’s goal is to provide culturally and linguistically appropriate social support services to improve the living conditions and quality of life of resettled refugees. CRB intentionally reaches across ethnic, religious and language barriers to foster community cohesion and build capacity.

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Traci: Refugee Community Gardens

This month, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) offices nationwide are promoting the local community gardens set up by each office. This gave me a great opportunity to interview a few local refugee farmers whose lives have been impacted by IRC Seattle’s community garden in Tukwila. It was great to focus on one IRC program that is uniquely impacting the lives of older refugees who might not otherwise get out into the local community.

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