Another year is almost gone but it seems like it was just yesterday that we were writing the 2012 letter. But with the year ending maybe it’s time to reflect on what the Center does. The Refugee Center may be a small agency but for the refugees, aylees, and immigrants, with whom we work—we are the place that might be able to answer that unasked question or provide a unique service.
Since this time last year we have welcomed 212 individuals (65 families) from ten different countries into our community. We have welcomed refugee families, helped file asylum applications, filed food stamp applications, heating/cooling assistance applications, medical card applications, provided medical interpretations, translated documents, employment applications and the list goes on and on.
The Center was again a recipient of a Provena Faith2 Grant. Twenty individuals have been attending classes and workshops on health care access, nutrition, diet, and obesity. The classes began September 28th and will be ending this Saturday, November 23rd. One French speaking lady summed her and other attendees feeling, when she lamented that “We are like family, I don’t want them to end.” A new class begins in January.
The Saturday Morning Tutoring Program resumed September 14th. The program has minimum of 40 unduplicated students from six countries attending on Saturdays. One-hundred and twenty volunteers have donated 360 hours of volunteer time to the program through November 23rd. Van, our school liaison, has been busy in the schools tutoring and working with families and in fact staff has helped with over 25 parent/teacher conferences through October.
Some days it seems as if the phones and doorbell never quit ringing. It is take a number or let’s set an appointment for tomorrow or the next day. Other days the office is relatively peaceful. The questions are varied; “My child is out of control. What do I do?” “What do I do if I feel I am a victim of discrimination?” “Could you talk with my landlord?” “What do I do? I provided IDHS my wage stubs.” “Is this coat okay for winter?” “What do you know about the Affordable Care Act? “I think my employer is stealing my wages. What do I do?”
Our clients are often afraid to make waves. They don’t have a good command of English and many come from cultures where only the powerful were treated fairly. Imagine a question and employees at ECIRMAC have probably encountered that question at one time or another. But to meet our mission of the successful resettlement and assimilation of refugees and immigrants into East Central Illinois we must address these and other questions.
We rely on volunteers to help interpret, teach, organize the office, keep our website updated (i.e., firstname.lastname@example.org) as well as donate household goods, bus tokens, and other resources. Without these gifts of time and other resources we would be challenged to help our families. Please consider making a gift today to the Refugee Center so we can continue to serve our clients. You may do so by using the “Donate Now” button on our website or through a check mailed to ECIRMAC at 302 South Birch Street, Urbana, IL 61801. Thank you.
Have a Safe and Happy New Year.