RISE & Shine Blog
Stories of change & hope from our members across the state
RISE & Shine Blog
Story by Julia DiGiacomo
Through Hispanic Heritage Month and the rest of the year, RISE AmeriCorps host sites offer a wide array of opportunities to help Latino immigrants transition from surviving to thriving in Iowa.
Centro Latino of Iowa, La Luz Centro Cultural, and Linea de Ayuda en Iowa/Iowa Spanish Helpline are three RISE sites whose main mission involves serving Hispanic communities. Each site responds to the unique needs of its surrounding communities.
Centro Latino of Iowa in Council Bluffs serves as the only Latino-based organization in Southwest Iowa. Its services run the gamut from cultural celebrations to resource navigation for immigrants and refugees.
The organization doubled their space in September to supply more room for in-person classes such as computer classes, English classes, and job coaching. Executive Director Ramon Calzada said their HiSET (High School Equivalency Test) class in partnership with Iowa Western Community College helps Spanish speakers gain a high school education in their own language and pursue better jobs.
RISE AmeriCorps members joined Centro Latino for the first time this summer, where they assisted with workforce readiness tasks like job coaching. Starting in October, new RISE members will continue these efforts and assist with classes in Centro Latino’s new space. Calzada said one-on-one support with clients is especially needed.
“AmeriCorps members will work one-on-one guiding the immigrants and teaching them how to access things online, because many don't know how to use a computer,” Calzada said. “They guide them through the information and help with what they need.”
La Luz Centro Cultural joined the RISE AmeriCorps Program over the summer. The nonprofit organization in Hampton educates and empowers immigrants while fostering cultural awareness in Iowa. About 25 percent of Hampton’s population is Hispanic, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. La Luz reflects this community’s needs with a focus on services for Latino immigrants and Spanish-speaking residents.
RISE AmeriCorps members at La Luz assist with English as a Second Language classes to help immigrants adapt to their new lives in Iowa. They also help individuals successfully find and apply for jobs.
Iowa Spanish Helpline, also known as the Línea de Ayuda en Iowa, is a RISE site that has been integral in connecting Spanish speakers across Iowa with information and resources during the pandemic. Founded in the wake of COVID-19 and the subsequent economic downturn, the organization runs a Monday through Friday phone line for Spanish speakers in need. Callers can inquire about COVID-19, finding assistance for basic needs, securing medical appointments and much more.
Spanish Helpline Coordinator Nayely Hurtado said bilingual RISE AmeriCorps members help answer calls and follow-up with clients in need of coordinated assistance. She said their COVID-19 vaccine outreach throughout 2021 was especially beneficial for Spanish speakers who struggled with the online vaccine appointment process.
“We’ve been able to help a lot of Latinos sign up for the vaccines while different agencies are offering clinics,” Hurtado said.
Although Hispanic Heritage Month ends October 15, La Luz, Centro Latino and Spanish Helpline continue impacting the lives of Iowa’s Latino community all year-round. They pave the way for RISE AmeriCorps host sites’ service to Latino immigrants in Iowa.
High school students from immigrant and refugee families are helping communities navigate the intricacies of technology and the U.S. school system.
Through EMBARC Waterloo’s Youth IT Navigator project, the students produced a new translated video series to help immigrant families learn basic computer and internet navigation skills -- using technology training the students themselves received through the Youth IT Navigator program.
“The primary idea for this program is to train youth about technology because they are already so integrated into the school community,” RISE AmeriCorps Member Chris Weber, who helps organize the program, said. “The youth would then be able to branch out and teach their parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, and others in their community.”
EMBARC modeled the Youth IT Navigator program after the original IT Navigator program, developed for immigrant and refugee adults. Both programs utilize a “train the trainer” model to teach tech skills to community leaders who then disseminate the information further into their community, Weber explained. Both the adult and youth program offered extensive training in using web browsers, email, Microsoft programs and more.
“The project gave the students the opportunity [to] use the computer skills they learned from the course,” Weber said.
Su Meh, 16, is one student from the Burma refugee community in Waterloo who has been especially committed to the project over the last year. Meh joined the Youth IT Navigator program to give back to the community alongside her brother, Claw Reh, who was the youngest volunteer when he joined last year in eighth grade, Meh said.
Meh balanced classes at Waterloo West High School while researching and writing presentations for videos. Meh worked on the videos about grading systems, Waterloo’s online student and parent portals and more.
Most of the students in the Youth IT Navigator program work in addition to their school responsibilities, but they still have managed to dedicate themselves toward educating their community. EMBARC compensated them for their time and positive impacts with a stipend.
The students’ work on the video series began with considering community needs and researching accordingly. Then after writing video scripts in English, six of the students helped translate the presentations into languages like Spanish, Lingala, French, Karen, and Karenni.
The narrated videos are now available on EMBARC’s Youtube account. EMBARC and the Youth IT Navigator program also produced a separate series of videos with information specific to Waterloo Community Schools.
The videos cover a wide range of subjects, which were chosen based on needs expressed by community members. Families can learn how grading functions in elementary school, middle school, and high school. Videos also show how to check online parent and student portals and the details behind what students are learning in each school subject.
Most families from Burma have insufficient knowledge of the U.S. school system, so the videos in their languages can go a long way to educate them, Meh said. Her bilingual skills also proved useful to create accessible content for other Karenni speakers, who generally suffer from a lack of resources as members of a language minority group.
“Knowing I’m helping out others from the same background as me empowers me a lot,” Meh said.
By Julia DiGiacomo
From hosting creative activities to helping refugee kids catch up academically, RISE AmeriCorps members at Community Youth Concepts (CYC) have dedicated months to enriching the summer of refugee youth in Des Moines. Their hard work resulted in a new partnership with Des Moines Refugee Support (DMRS), weekly tutoring sessions with refugee children and more.
CYC empowers young people to lead healthy, successful lives through their wide array of programming. Annual opportunities include mentorship, research-based outreach for teens, service learning experiences, challenge courses, career planning assistance and more. The addition of RISE AmeriCorps members has renewed focus on assisting refugee children.
RISE AmeriCorps member Nawal Rai said he loved working one-on-one with all the kids in CYC’s various programs. He especially enjoyed meeting weekly with refugee children at Urban Heights Covenant Church, where he and the other RISE members provided tutoring in subjects like reading and math. Extra assistance is often key for refugee children who lack years of quality education prior to resettlement and need help overcoming the English language barrier.
“It was one of the most eye-opening and one of the most rewarding experiences that I’ve had,” Rai said. “That experience will forever be with me.”
Rai said he aspires to work with immigrants and refugees in his future career, so the RISE opportunity proved a great foundation for future work.
In May, RISE members initiated a new partnership between CYC and DMRS with the goal of better coordinating initiatives for refugee youth. The members offered summer activities for children and completed various projects along with DMRS volunteers throughout the summer. Together, the group renovated a Little Free Library and food pantry, sent cards to Blank Children’s Hospital, cultivated vegetables and pollinator plants in CYC’s garden for the community and more.
RISE AmeriCorps Member Masoka Mkombozi is the longest serving member at CYC; the three others only joined the team for the summer months. Mkombozi immigrated to the U.S. in 2008 as a refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, bringing skilled multilingual and multicultural expertise to the diverse community of youth she now works with.
“I really love working directly with the kids and with what I’m doing right now,” said Mkombozi, who is finishing her third term with the RISE AmeriCorps program. “I’m really enjoying that and it’s been really fun.”
During the ‘20-’21 school year, Mkombozi also focused on facilitating CYC’s Portable Challenge for local students. The program invites students to think outside of the box and solve challenges with everyday items, such as carefully balancing a structure out of toilet paper rolls and straws. CYC designed the exercise to promote team building and critical thinking skills.
Although Mkombozi and fellow RISE AmeriCorps members Rai, Ethan Vance and Julia Robinson-Frantsvog are now wrapping up their current service terms, their hard work across many endeavors will leave a lasting impact on Des Moines youth and CYC.
Soon after COVID-19 hit in 2020, the founders of Línea de Ayuda en Iowa (Iowa Spanish Helpline) witnessed the disproportionate rate that Iowa Latinos were signing up for essential resources and assistance. In a rush to support struggling communities while the economy plummeted, a grassroots, volunteer-run effort took off to connect Spanish speakers in need with support.
The phone line soon gained larger capacity through its partnership with EMBARC and the RISE AmeriCorps program. Now, after over a year of service, the RISE host site has been awarded for its hard work with the Iowa Disaster Human Resource Council’s Volunteer Award. The award ties back to Linea de Ayuda’s roots when volunteers entirely ran the helpline. The organization was also lauded for its disaster assistance after lifting up Latinos through two of Iowa’s most significant recent catastrophes - the derecho and the pandemic.
“I think we got the award because the Spanish helpline helped many more Latinos sign up for a lot of resources,” Línea de Ayuda Coordinator Nayely Hurtado said. “There was a lot of crisis response that was related to COVID-19 or the derecho storm, like helping people sign-up for financial assistance or FEMA assistance.”
.Linea de Ayuda currently operates Monday through Friday from 8am to 5pm for any Spanish speakers in Iowa seeking resources, information, or other support. Needs range from clients looking for housing assistance, to help coordinating health services, to COVID-19 vaccine help, and much more.
The four RISE AmeriCorps members utilize their bilingual Spanish and English skills to efficiently assist clients and help run the daily phone line processes. For example, RISE Members Laura Meza Ramirez and Katherine Berber-Solis answer calls and follow-up with case management--coordinated plans to assist clients. RISE Member Lizbeth Salina Reyes is currently dedicated to creating a detailed map of resources available in Iowa while RISE Member Shalome Musignac-Jordan answers calls in addition to assisting staff with efforts like grant writing.
Most recently, the Línea de Ayuda team has also prioritized vaccine outreach services. The phone line has become a space to help Latinos learn more information in their native language about the COVID-19 vaccines and get signed up for appointments.
Hurtado said consistent communication with the Polk County Health Department was key for planning each step of the vaccine outreach initiative. As a result of the carefully planned project, Hurtado said the Spanish helpline has signed up many Latinos across Iowa for the vaccine at various agencie's’ clinics.
Since the pandemic has pushed many sign-up mechanisms online, Hurtado said many people needed assistance with navigating the online appointment process.
“We helped people sign-up for the vaccine because we realized there were a lot of barriers, not only for Latinos but for a lot of people that don’t have access to computers or might not be as knowledgeable about signing up for things online,” Hurtado said.
From vaccine outreach to case management, the RISE members, staff, and volunteers at Línea de Ayuda have dedicated months to improving access to resources. Their services continue to impact the lives of countless Spanish speakers since the pandemic and the derecho.
In a year of unprecedented changes that touched nearly all aspects of daily life, RISE AmeriCorps members at ArtForce Iowa are sharing their unique experiences and deeply personal stories about what change means to them. Their social justice art exhibit, #KNOWJUSTICE: Know Change, officially launched on May 6 and features works of art from numerous youth artists.
The #KNOWJUSTICE: Know Change project was inspired by the civil rights rallying cry “No Justice, No Peace”, which protests against and condemns police violence against Black community members. Since #KNOWJUSTICE is an educational exhibit, the “no” was changed to “know” signifying the aim to truly know what is needed for achieving justice in our society.
The exhibit creates a space for refugee and immigrant youth and the cultures and communities they represent. This year’s #KNOWJUSTICE exhibit took on special meaning for the RISE AmeriCorps members at ArtForce as they explored the dramatic changes that affect their lives. Unfinished and in process work is also included and can be seen throughout the exhibit, along with the theme of change.
For the first time in its six-year history, the event is taking place online due to the COVID-19 crisis, giving added significance to the subtitle “Know Change”. This new format increased attendance considerably, with nearly 3,000 people viewing the exhibit virtually compared to about 150 people in years past. The 2021 edition of #KNOWJUSTICE features the work of ArtForce Iowa’s four RISE AmeriCorps members: Kamaura Kim, Lana Baccam Paredes, Shel Paw, and Mar Blu Moo.
Kim, a first generation Hmong-American and member of the musical group First Gen, wrote and performed the song “Nco Txog Hmoob” about the challenges of leaving one’s homeland to come to the United States. She hopes it will raise awareness about the experience of living in Iowa as a young person from a different country and inspire others to learn about their own culture as she has.
Baccam Paredes emphasized the importance of the journey leading up to #KNOWJUSTICE: Know Change, including reflections on past exhibits and group conversations about justice and change and what those ideas look like.
“It gives such a big platform for what seem to be little stories to share with the whole world. Our youth, we see them as little but they’re not. They are big and they are important,” Baccam Paredes said.
Mar Blu, or MB for short, is a photographer who designed his own short film, titled My Body is in Des Moines but My Heart is in My Home Country. Through his innovative artwork, MB is bringing attention to the atrocities committed against Karen people during the military coup in Myanmar in February 2021. The Karen are an ethnic group residing mainly in Burma, however they have faced injustice and oppression and many have had to flee state violence in their country.
“I want to preserve the Karen culture in my life and in my photography. I want new generations to know about my culture and my history,” MB said. “For now it’s difficult because I see my people dying and it seems like most people don’t care about it.”
RISE members made brave artistic choices in their work, and the diversity of the art created in #KNOWJUSTICE: Know Change is sure to make a lasting impact on the community. Simultaneously a personal and collaborative effort, the exhibit demonstrates the powerful vision shared by this team of youth artists. The RISE team at ArtForce advocates for continued support of youth artists, their stories, their work, and their healing.
Shel Paw hopes that her painting, Karen, and message will shed more light on the plight of Karen people and the refugees seeking safety from war and persecution in Myanmar.
“I hope whenever someone reads my artist statement that it spreads awareness of what is happening to Karen people,” she said. Shel also hopes to inspire young people to see that they can create and share their own art as a way to give back to the community.
Kim agrees, saying she wants more youth to make art, especially musical performances. “I hope this inspires youth to make music and perform what they love to do.”
Baccam Paredes encourages other community-based organizations to support and foster programs that promote youth empowerment and healing through the arts. She hopes that other young artists who see the exhibit will be empowered to make art that is personal and authentic.
“I hope young artists will continue to tell stories in a way that is not expected by the world. The story is for them, if it’s for others it’s a gift.”
ArtForce Iowa is very intentional about centering the voices of youth who have been marginalized by systems of oppression, and #KNOWJUSTICE: Know Change is no exception. By sharing their stories, these courageous young artists are embodying the mission of RISE AmeriCorps to empower refugees and immigrants. Their art inspires and informs, evoking a visceral response and allowing the audience to learn about ethnic groups and bring attention to what is happening in the world at this very moment. The ArtForce team exemplified the teamwork model that is crucial to the RISE program.
“I’ve never seen it take root in this way. These were truly labors of love, we were all helping each other,” said Yvette Zaród Hermann, Arts Outreach Educator at ArtForce Iowa.
Baccam Paredes seconded that sentiment, saying “It is such an achievement to make it happen, have an online event, and reach more people. That’s the bittersweetness of having the exhibit during a pandemic.”
Thanks to ArtForce and the RISE team, a new generation of artists has a space to share their stories, to support each other, to heal, and call for justice.
Shel Paw summed up the positive impact of the project’s journey and the final exhibit saying, “This was the perfect year to focus on change.”
New artwork has been added each week throughout the month of May, allowing guests to come back and experience the exhibit anew. It will remain open and free to view for the foreseeable future.
Visit #KNOWJUSTICE: Know Change online
Story by Julia DiGiacomo
RISE AmeriCorp’s new host site, Jewels Academy, is sparking interest in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) for girls from underrepresented communities. Through math tutoring and 8–10 STEM workshops per year, girls are learning skills to help them succeed in high school, university, and future STEM careers.
Jewels Academy’s upcoming project is the “Young Emerging Scientist Virtual App Camp” for 4th through 9th grade girls. The week-long day camp will take place three times over June and July to reach a wide range of students in Des Moines. The main focus will be the design and creation of an app that students can access on their phones.
Jewels Academy’s new RISE AmeriCorps Member Elise Baty will help organize and facilitate the summer camp along with staff. She will help girls troubleshoot technological issues and help them develop business plans for their newfound apps.
“I'm most excited that our new RISE member is interested in becoming a teacher eventually,” Jewels Academy Program Director Joy Castro said. “So I'm just excited that she gets the opportunity to work with kids and learn the ropes of teaching with hands-on experience.”
Although the programs are open to all girls in 4th to 12th grades, Jewels Academy’s mission emphasizes the importance of bridging the gap in STEM training for girls from marginalized communities, such as low-income and racially diverse students. Jewels Academy’s programs are accessible to students from different socioeconomic backgrounds with the help of scholarship aid.
The week of science training can ignite new passions for girls and young women searching out their path in the world. Castro said her favorite part of the summer camps is watching the students become increasingly excited about science and math.
“When the students start the program, they might not be as into computers and science and STEM, but when they leave they say, ‘Oh I actually really like that. I think I want to pursue this in the future,’’' Castro said. “Just seeing their attitudes change about STEM is always one of the most exciting parts of the program.”
Story by Julia DiGiacomo
RISE AmeriCorps members at Oakridge Neighborhood in Des Moines have spent the first chunk of 2021 improving the lives of immigrants and refugees through ESL classes, a job readiness course, and education about the COVID-19 vaccine.
Oakridge Neighborhood in partnership with DMACC provides English class sessions to help immigrants and refugees better navigate daily life in Iowa. RISE AmeriCorps Member Halima Ali’s role is assisting with teaching and helping students who speak Arabic. She’s built off a year of previous experience assisting with the ESL classes as a Workstudy student at DMACC.
Halima’s brother and fellow RISE AmeriCorps Member Mo'ad Ali also joins to assist with class sessions when he has time away from Oakridge Neighborhood’s culturally diverse preschool, Oak Academy. Together with DMACC and Oakridge staff, they break up the class of about 15 into groups according to English level for more individualized assistance.
Halima says she’s enjoyed watching her students become increasingly confident in their English. She’s also received positive feedback from students at the end of class terms, with reports that they’re excited to be improving English.
“They say they are so happy and can see improvements in themselves,” Ali said. “We can see that too in them. It’s so great to see them be happy and see a difference from where they started and where they are now.”
Eight of the ESL students were recruited to join Oakridge Neighborhood’s first Workplace Skills 101 course in March. The eight hours of training were aimed at immigrants and refugees who are largely unfamiliar with the details of the American workplace. Topics included workplace safety, employee rights and responsibilities, workplace terminology, and other useful information like pay stubs.
RISE AmeriCorps members and staff helped interpret for students in four languages: Arabic, Swahili, Tigrinya, and Kunama. Halima helped the students who spoke Arabic follow along with content.
“The students all successfully completed the program and they were so excited to finish,” Halima said. “We also have plans to open another similar program in the future for the public, not just the Oakridge residents.”
RISE AmeriCorps members were also instrumental in translating and delivering vaccine facts to immigrants and refugees so they could make informed decisions. Oakridge Neighborhood’s outreach included calling clients and creating surveys to gauge thoughts on the vaccine. They then cleared up misconceptions and dispersed translated vaccine information from the CDC and local health departments.
Halima said that learning the facts in their language as well as hearing about others in their community getting vaccinated helped encourage many clients to seek out the vaccine at their clinic.
At least 240 people were vaccinated with Pfizer at Oakridge Neighborhood and UnityPoint’s vaccine clinic. They’re now nearly fully vaccinated and protected against COVID-19 after the two doses on April 10 and May 1.
“To be honest, at first [clients] were like ‘no no no’ to the vaccine,” Halima said. “But by the end of our efforts, we ended up having waitlists for the vaccine.
Story by Julia DiGiacomo
For former AmeriCorps RISE Member Kar Meh, empowering immigrants and refugees with EMBARC Waterloo has become a family endeavor. After successfully completing her AmeriCorps term in 2020, she encouraged her two younger siblings to join the IT Navigator Program as volunteers. Now the family works together to improve the prospects of refugees from Burma in Waterloo.
Kar inspired her 14-year-old brother Klaw Reh and 16-year-old sister Su Meh to follow in her footsteps after volunteering with EMBARC throughout high school as both a youth navigator and RISE member. Kar is also signed up to mentor volunteers for the IT Navigator Program.
“My sister definitely motivated me to join,” Klaw said. “She told me it was a great opportunity.”
Klaw and Su now assist refugees learning to use computers and the internet through the IT Navigator Program. As Youth Technology Navigators, they joined a secondary cohort of student volunteers. After extensive training sessions, they teach basic technology skills needed for modern life in the U.S. to peers and their community.
Su said she and her brother also are currently creating videos on topics such as the U.S. educational and grading systems so that refugee parents can stay involved in their children’s education. Klaw and Su’s bilingual English and Karenni skills have been critical for connecting with and educating clients.
“Most of the Burmese students’ parents have little to no knowledge on these things because of the language barrier,” Su said. “Our goal is to educate them on these topics.”
As just a middle schooler, Klaw is the youngest volunteer with the IT Navigator Program. He said working with his older sister Su has made the experience a lot easier, since she understands him and helps build off of his suggestions for projects.
Kar Meh made her own significant impact on clients at EMBARC Waterloo before her younger siblings’ joined the effort. During her AmeriCorps term as a senior in high school, she primarily worked with youth and interpreted for clients at Waterloo Community Schools before the pandemic hit. Afterwards, she refocused her energy on distributing food supplies for families in need. Kar helped order food, package supplies, reach out to partners, and connect with communities.
Kar’s exemplary work as well as Su’s own past experiences with EMBARC led West High School Student Su to get involved too.
“One of the reasons why I joined this program is because it gives me the opportunity to give back to the community, especially the Burmese community since I’m very interested in it,” Su said. “Knowing I’m helping out others from the same background as me empowers me a lot.”
Story by Julia DiGiacomo
Over a decade after fleeing unrest in Burma for the United States, Aung* was struggling to keep his family afloat as the financial tolls of the COVID-19 pandemic grew heavier and heavier. To avoid drowning in bills, he connected with EMBARC for help.
Aung represents one of many refugees and immigrants across the U.S. burdened by the COVID-19 pandemic. While unemployment rates spiked in 2020, immigrants (especially those with less education) faced sharper job cuts than non-immigrants. Meatpacking plants, which heavily rely on immigrant workers, also became a hot spot for COVID-19 in spring 2020. Aung’s workplace wasn’t spared.
An outbreak at the JBS pork plant in Marshalltown caused Aung to stay home for his child’s safety. One of his young children developed pneumonia at the same time and was considered high risk. While the child recovered and the virus spread at his job, Aung received unemployment aid instead.
After returning to work at JBS, Aung was hit with devastating news. He was one of hundreds of Iowans who was mistakenly overpaid in unemployment assistance. He would have to pay back a large amount to the Iowa Workforce Development.
Aung’s wife, Lwe Lwe*, tested positive for coronavirus in October and he was forced to quarantine at home. Subsequently, Aung was laid off from his job for taking two breaks in one year. Since Lwe Lwe cared full-time for their two young children, aged four and six, the family was left with zero income.
Lal Muani, an EMBARC RISE AmeriCorps member, says Aung reached out to EMBARC while struggling to manage a mortgage and paying back unemployment benefits and a surgery bill from 2019. Aung and his wife, who speak Mizo Chin, had struggled to understand the extent of the dental surgery bill for their son due to the language barrier.
“I can’t imagine how frustrated and stressed they were,” Muani said. “They didn’t have food stamps or any social income at all. They’re going to think of losing the house. ”
Muani, who also speaks Mizo Chin, worked extensively with Aung to complete a Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) application. She also helped him overcome English language and technology barriers while submitting job applications.
With Muani and EMBARC’s help, the odds finally began to turn in Aung’s favor. After about a month of waiting, Aung was approved for PUA. The funds allowed him to pay back all of the unemployment aid and take care of other bills, such as the dental payment. He was eventually hired at a well-paying company and returned to work to provide for his family.
“I am really proud of my team and I, that we could step in and help him figure out every situation,” Muani said. “Now he’s back to work and his payments have been settled. I think it’s really a win-win story.”
Story by Julia DiGiacomo
RISE AmeriCorps members at Mary Treglia Community House were instrumental in helping a COVID-19 vaccine clinic run smoothly. The Sioux City non-profit opened its doors to vaccinate 250 people within the span of several hours last Wednesday, March 17.
The goal of the event was to help immigrants and refugees overcome language and technology barriers to receive protection against the coronavirus.
“I think we’ve all heard how hard it is for anyone that isn’t technologically literate to sign up for a vaccine appointment,” Mary Treglia Community House Executive Director Becky Carlson said. “So we wanted to be able to provide another option.”
Most vaccine providers in Iowa, such as Hy-Vee, Walgreens, and CVS only offer appointments on their websites, which limits accessibility for immigrants and refugees without computer experience. Non-English speakers can also face obstacles navigating the blocks of English text on the applications.
Instead, Mary Treglia Community House only required a phone call to register for the clinic. They also reached out directly to immigrant and refugee staff and clients. Interpreters assisted patients with the registration and vaccination process.
Local news coverage and word of mouth spread information and helped increase registration beyond expectations. The clinic was also the first in the area to include people aged 16-64 with underlying health conditions, which drove up demand for the vaccine.
“We’re still getting calls,” Carlson said the day after the clinic.
As a result of the surge in registration, many people vaccinated were English speakers from the Sioux City surrounding areas. However, Mary Treglia Community House’s interpreters still kept busy helping non-English speakers. Food production workers, many of whom are immigrants and refugees, were one of the eligible groups vaccinated.
RISE AmeriCorps members Samson Weldu and Brianna Marroquin helped staff coordinate the rush of people. Weldu helped with check-ins and monitored the patients for 15 minutes after their shots in case of allergic reactions.
Weldu, who was born and raised in Eritrea, has also been an advocate for the safety and effectivity of COVID-19 vaccines. Carlson says he’s important for raising trust of the vaccine in African refugee communities.
Although the event was extremely busy, Weldu says the Mary Treglia Community House team made it work. The patients were happy for the chance to receive the Moderna doses.
“Everybody was really helpful,” Weldu said. “It was my first time working with so many people. But it was a good experience.”
About the Blog
RISE AmeriCorps Members uplift and empower Iowa's refugee and immigrant communities. This blog was created with the intent of sharing these valuable success stories with the public.