Category Archives: Somali Community Services Coalition

Four new VISTAs!

Four new VISTAs started their year of service with the Refugee Support Network on Monday. Learn more about their backgrounds and what they’ll be doing during their VISTA year.

Akshika PatelAkshika Patel

Volunteer Program Assistant

Asian Counseling and Referral Service

Akshika serves as the AmeriCorps VISTA Volunteer Program Assistant at Asian Counseling and Referral Service (ACRS). This organization provides a broad range of human services and behavioral health programs to local Asian Pacific American communities. As Volunteer Program Assistant, Akshika recruits, trains, and supports ACRS volunteers in order to provide supplemental support services and increase organizational capacity. While having been born and lived in London, she spent her formative years in Seattle. She graduated from the University of Washington with a bachelor’s degree in International Studies and South Asian Studies, as well as with minors in Human Rights and Asian Language and Literature. In the midst of completing her undergraduate degree, she volunteered and interned with local non-profits and thus developed a passion for working with refugee and immigrant populations.

Erika GrantierErika Grantier

Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA

International Rescue Committee

 As the Community Engagement VISTA at the International Rescue Committee (IRC), Erika focuses on growing the IRC’s volunteer and donor bases and educating the community on the importance of the IRC’s work. She also helps plan and execute Artvocacy and the Adopt-a-Family program. Erika is from Roslyn, Washington, and studied Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Montana. Before coming to the IRC, she worked at the Young Women’s Christian Association as a mentor and advocate. Her favorite books are the “Post-Birthday World” and “No One Speaks of Remarkable Things,” and if she had to eat one food for the rest of her life, it would be frozen raspberries.

 Kelly ClaytonKelly Clayton

Learning Center Coordinator VISTA

International Rescue Committee

As the new Learning Center Coordinator at the International Rescue Committee, Kelly will ensure the sustainability of the Learning Center programs by providing training and support for volunteers as well as increasing the organization’s capacity to provide improved programs.

While attending Michigan State University, Kelly became interested in refugee educational services when she volunteered at a local refugee center that provided ESL classes. After graduating with a degree in Comparative Cultures and Politics in 2012, Kelly moved to New York where she received her CELTA (Certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages). She is very excited to begin her year of service and looks forward to a rewarding experience.

Nick Valera

Resource Development Coordinator

Somali Community Services Coalition

I will be working with the Somali Community Services Coalition (SCSC) as their Resource Development Coordinator, writing grants, fundraising, facilitating strategic planning, and performing a needs assessment. I hope to increase SCSC’s capacity to serve the Somali and East African Communities of South King County with access to social services and education opportunities.

Graduating in 2007 from Seattle University, I completed two years of Peace Corps service in Cameroon, interned at a Human Rights NGO focusing on human trafficking, and traveled East and West Africa fairly extensively. Most recently, I am coming from an internship as an intake counselor at the American Civil Liberties Union.  I am very happy to be working with SCSC, drinking tea, working in an intercultural setting and not feeling at home, learning Somali, and being challenged daily with new experiences.


Lauren: Partnering

The afterschool youth program goes on one to two fieldtrips a month to supplement school work with fun activities. We took a trip to the Tukwila Community Center (TCC) to play basketball. The students enjoyed the physical activity, and we worked together on teamwork skills and good sportsmanship. Somali Community Services Coalition’s (SCSC) afterschool program visits the TCC once a month for these types of activities.

We are working to plan an Open House Family Day with the Refugee Women’s Alliance (ReWA) at the TCC, and it is shaping up to be a beneficial event for all parties. We will be opening up the TCC to the whole community and providing a day of free fitness classes, day care, and arts and crafts so that the community can learn about what the TCC, SCSC, and ReWA have to offer. This collaboration is strengthening our relationships with both the TCC and ReWA. In fact, we now are involved in almost all events that the TCC holds. We tabled at their Dr. Seuss night to promote our programs, which resulted in two new families joining us. At the event, my main TCC contact shook my hand energetically thanking us for coming, declaring “this is what partnership is about”!

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Lauren: Volunteer Night

I started a new tradition to increase volunteer retention. In order to build the community and help volunteers feel like they are coming to a friendly place where they are known and are building friendships, I began a monthly volunteer night. November kicked off the first one. We went bowling and 8 people came. It was a great night and hopefully the word will spread so that even more people come in the future.

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Lauren: Celebrating Art & Culture

I organized a Cultural Celebration with the Seattle Theatre Group (STG) in early fall. We had over 60 attendees from the community, including participants from the Refugee Women’s Alliance’s after school program, community leaders and organizers, Somali Community Services Coalition’s own youth program participants, and the general community. STG brought a number of African dancers to engage with the community in a dialogue about art and cultural identity. The purpose of the celebration was to start introducing appropriate forms of art (that are respectful of Islam) to the community to start breaking down the stereotypes of art and teach what it can do for the individual and the community.

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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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Lauren: Summer Adventures

Somali Community Services Coalition’s Summer Adventures youth program is in full swing! Each week, the kids in the program receive instruction in math and literacy and take part in fun activities and field trips surrounding a specific theme. We had Wacky World of Science week, during which we spent some time at the Pacific Science Center learning about ancient Egypt; Adventures with Wildlife week and a trip to the Woodland Park Zoo; Globetrotters week with a trip to the Wing Luke Asian Museum to learn about Asian history and culture; Under the Sea week and a trip to the Seattle Aquarium; and Health, Wealth, and Community week, which included a trip to the Tukwila Fire Station and Tukwila City Hall as well as Marra Farm to learn about urban agriculture and immigrant farmers. A local dentist also visited during Health, Wealth, and Community week and gave the kids free dental exams, free toothbrushes, and a lesson on how to properly brush their teeth.

Pictures from the Summer Adventures program can be found on Somali Community Services Coalition’s Facebook page:

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Lauren: Building Rapport

During my first two months at Somali Community Services Coalition, I have been building rapport with the youth participants in the After-School Tutoring Program that I coordinate. I have been working really hard to get to know the kids and learn about their Somali culture by asking questions, and it is starting to pay off.  They are getting used to me, and I am getting used to them, and while it is a slow process, I have made a couple of great connections. Yesterday, one participant told me that she wanted to bring me a cake on my birthday!

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Lauren Klein

Youth Programs Coordinator

Somali Community Services Coalition

As the Somali Community Services Coalition’s Youth Programs Coordinator, Lauren coordinates the After-School Homework Help Program for K-12 and the Summer Adventures Program for 6 to 13-year-olds. She also coordinates and recruits volunteer tutors for the youth programs, conducts resource development for the youth programs, and assists in resource development for the organization as a whole.

Lauren is originally from Massachusetts, but has lived in Michigan for the last decade. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a master’s in Social Work, focusing on community organizing and management of human resources. Her main social work focus is in youth empowerment through art with international populations. She absolutely loves the outdoors and activities like hiking, camping, and anything in the woods or water, and that’s what attracted her to the Pacific Northwest. Lauren loves to travel, and one of her favorite things in life is to explore new places and cultures!

Somali Community Services Coalition

The mission of the Somali Community Services Coalition (SCSC) is to enhance and improve the well-being and quality of life of Somali families and individuals while maintaining the cultural heritage of the Somali community. SCSC was founded in 1995 by a group of Somali refugees who recognized the need for social services among the Somali community in King County. SCSC provides a variety of social services including: immigration and employment assistance, parent-school connection workshops, advocacy, interpretation, and translation services, conflict mediation services, legal and medical referrals, and job assistance services. In addition, SCSC coordinates four tutoring programs throughout King County. Through these diverse programs and services and our partnerships with other organizations, we hope to meet the equally diverse needs of our community.

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