By Path of Hope Staff, as told to Sarah Hubbard
Jane came to Path of Hope because her family was new to Iowa and didn’t speak any English. It was easy to see Jane’s fear just by looking into her eyes. She was uncertain of the future, and terrified of failing to care for her kids. After talking with Jane, we were able to decide together that her top three priorities would be finding a place to live, getting a job, and finding a physician.
We took Jane to see many different houses that she could rent. We wanted to make sure she knew she had options and didn’t need to settle on the first one. When she decided which one she wanted, Path of Hope assisted the family by making arrangements with the landlord for them to be able to move in without credit and also by teaching the family how to make the first month's rent payment, plus the deposit. Between days of house hunting, we helped Jane fill out Medicaid forms so she and her children could go see a doctor without worrying about the cost. In addition, Jane got a job with assistance from our staff here at Path of Hope.
Jane now has a job that can help provide for her family’s needs. She also has a primary care doctor who she can visit without worrying about big bills. Jane is still living in the house that Path of Hope helped her find with her family. When she comes to visit, there is no longer fear in her eyes. Instead, there is a happiness and joy there that we know we helped put there.
By JoAnn Goerdt as told to Sarah Hubbard
David brought three letters in to IC Compassion about his electric bill and wanted help understanding them. He didn’t understand the timing of the payments, the down payment, or the consequences of making a late payment. In addition, David wasn’t familiar with the postal service in the United States. He didn’t know that letters needed stamps, which would seem like common knowledge to people who have lived in the United States their whole lives.
I worked with David to help him understand the letters and bill payment process. During that time, I could see that he was embarrassed to ask for help but I also saw his courage and determination. He trusted me enough to help him solve the issue. It was clear that David wanted to learn by the way he asked for instructions to be repeated until he understood them and could explain them back to me. Even though you could tell he was frustrated, he was patient with himself and with me while we worked through the process together.
David has become knowledgeable and confident about the process of making and mailing payments. Because of this, he is becoming more self-sufficient. We greet each other with a knowing smile, but don't have to mention previous circumstances again. I feel that David and I have become friends and he would feel comfortable asking me for help in the future or recommending me to his friends if they need any help transitioning to the U.S, culture.
By Joana Lwin
My experience serving as an AmeriCorps member with EMBARC Waterloo is incredible. Everyone in the office has been very helpful, friendly, and inspiring. We understand each others' needs and everyone is there to help each others out. Even though we are in multiple programs, we are all connected just like we are working on the same project. I am proud to be part of EMBARC to serve my community. For example, everyone on the Waterloo team came and support each other to help the community members filling out applications at our FOIA clinic. Everyone was willing to miss out on spending time with their families to be there and work together to do it correctly and run smoothly.
My supervisor have been great and friendly to me. We have built a strong relationship and I felt like I can talk to her about everything and every problem I have. My supervisor have not only been helping me with my work as a RefugeesRISE member, but has also helped me a lot with schools, filling out scholarship and going through college process with me. I respect her a lot and she serves as a role model for me. She reminded me of my strength when I’m down. I would say she’s not only my supervisor but also a friend, family and my counselor.
On Saturday, March 31st, EMBARC Des Moines' Health Advocate, Lian Puii, and RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps member, Moriah Morgan, held a wellness day in partnership with Connections Matter and United Way. An art therapist, yoga instructor, and meditation expert volunteered their time to teach their practices to a group of ten women from the Burma community as a way to cope with stress and trauma. The women enjoyed these activities so much that they have requested that these experts hold workshops with other community groups. All in all a great way to spend a Saturday!
In February, EMBARC's Waterloo office completed their third annual Community Producers Workshop. The workshop was designed to train members of the Burma community on the various aspects of starting, handling, and maintaining a business to help empower participants to sell their own goods and services. The workshop was administered by RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps members at EMBARC in partnership with the University of Northern Iowa Center for Environmental Education and the Northeast Iowa Food Bank. Thirty members from the Burma community participated in the two week, thirty hour class. Before the class, most attendees knew very little about the various aspects of banking, credit scores, and business in the United States. As a result of this class, attendees reported feeling more confident with cash handling, food safety, and customer service, and 15 participants signed up to work in the community garden and sell their goods during the farmers market. One participant stated that as a result of this class they "... would love to learn more about the farmers' market because I would like to sell products from my country." This month, the program will continue with participants learning how to garden, working together to maintain a community garden, and selling what they grow to local markets and stores.
Over the past few months, Greater Des Moines Partnership's RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps members Holly Clark and Bal Budathoki have been working to develop an after school curriculum encouraging sophomores and juniors at Hoover High School in Des Moines to dive deeper into the subjects of career and college preparedness. Each week, students participating in the program learn about furthering their education and career opportunities through guest speakers and hands-on activities.
Holly and Bal reached out to the RefugeeRISE members at EMBARC’s Des Moines office for assistance with a session. RefugeeRISE members Rebecca Chamberlin and Sarah Hubbard jumped at the opportunity to help their fellow host site. In a few hours, they developed a lesson plan to teach the high schoolers about their personalities through the Real Colors test.
Rebecca and Sarah helped students take their personality tests, then had them break into groups to design a poster that would represent their color’s traits. Students then presented to their peers about their color. Following that, students discussed in a large group what type of jobs would be best suited to their personality, and how their personality styles would work with other styles in the workplace.
By Sarah Kraft
On Sunday March 4, 2018, EMBARC Waterloo held a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) clinic to help Burma community members who came to the U.S. from Malaysia apply to receive documents found in their immigration file. The clinic was a huge success thanks to the hard work of many organizations and volunteers! To hold the clinic, EMBARC partnered with Iowa Legal Aid and Catholic Charities to provide legal expertise and supervise the paperwork. The clinic was also made possible because of over 20 volunteers from both the Burma and Iowa communities who came to help fill out the paperwork. In total, we helped 43 clients complete the FOIA paperwork. This great turnout was thanks to the hours my Burma coworkers spend calling community members to explain the clinic and encourage them to attend. I'm so proud to be part of such an awesome team!
By Rebecca Chamberlin
On December 4th, 2017, I successfully matched my first mentor pair in EMBARC’s Des Moines mentoring program. The program matches mentors with a refugee or immigrant client to help them work towards their personal and professional goals. The mentee, named Nu, is a one of
EMBARC’s parent-navigators and applied to our mentoring program because she wanted help
improving her English. Her mentor, Virginia, has had experience teaching English Language Learners classes abroad and teaches ELL classes at a church in Des Moines. The two have been
meeting almost every week since December 4 th , 2017. So far, they have logged over ten hours
together and Virginia says that both Nu’s English and confidence have greatly improved. “I love
Nu’s attitude every time we work together. She patient, positive, but also honest”, says
By Janine Baeza
When a partnership fell through, all spring break plans for the Youth Navigators at EMBARC's Waterloo office were canceled last minute. We knew that it wasn’t an option to leave things in that state and tell the youth we no longer would have anything for them to do. Instead, I worked with a
couple of my team members to plan events for spring break all in one day. Beca and I organized the activities, Jarye asked for donations, and Joana spread the word to the youth.
Tuesday we volunteered at the Northeast Iowa Food Bank and visited Allen Women’s Health Clinic. Many of the Youth Navigators had been to the food bank before so they were very familiar with the work done there. Together we packed over 1,000 backpack lunches that day and they still had plenty of energy to ask questions and engage at the clinic.
Wednesday we took a trip to Iowa City to visit the University of Iowa Museum of Natural Science and History. The youth loved exploring the museum’s different exhibits and learning about animals and organisms that used to live here in Iowa. Afterward we had time to explore the campus a bit and have a picnic at a nearby park before heading back to Waterloo.
Thursday was a great opportunity for the Youth Navigators to learn more about higher education when we visited Wartburg College. Most students have visited other local schools such as University of Northern Iowa or Hawkeye Community College, but there had been less opportunities for them to visit private schools and learn about that college experience. After our visit and lunch, we went to see the movie A Wrinkle in Time.
Friday was another day of service and fun. We started the day by painting at the new House of Hope location for a few hours. After eating pizza, we ended the day by going ice skating at Young Arena.
As I drove one of the Navigators home Friday afternoon, she told me that she was sad the week was over because she had so much fun. There are moments when you know you’ve made a difference and that was one for me.
About the Blog
The service members of RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps have compiled stories of success during their membership. This blog was created with the intent of sharing these valuable stories with the public.