The “Changing Views on Daughters of Burma” project, lead by the Iowa Women's Foundation and a healthy futures AmeriCorps team at EMBARC's Waterloo office, addressed for the first time gender identity and roles in the Burma community. Navigators completed trainings and a culturally appropriate curriculum was developed and used during learning circles. At learning circles, participants were asked to rate their level of knowledge on each topic before and after the learning circle. Of the 70 participants who attended the learning circles, all but 2 reported an increase in knowledge. Navigators who participated in leadership roles gained confidence in their ability to advocate for others, understand US systems, understand and analyze the construction of gender and its implications, compare social norms, and create change within their communities.
By Katie Splean, as told to Sarah Hubbard
G. was having trouble navigating while living in Cedar Rapids. He found the bus system inconvenient and was accustomed to riding his bike everywhere when he was in Africa. While working with the Catherine McAuley Center, G. was partnered with a case manager. After the pair got to know each other a bit more, G. asked his case manager if there was a way he could get a bike. The Catherine McAuley Center put out a request to the community for a donated bike and was able to find someone who was happy to donate a new bike in honor of her son. G. is now able to ride his bike around the city to meet with business contacts, get to work, shop, and socialize.
By Katie Splean
Leya is a RefugeeRISE AmeriCorps member turned full-time employee at the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC). Here, she's teaching Job Club, which seeks to equip our clients with the skills to succeed in the workplace. For many of them, it helps plot out the steps and goals they'll need to follow in order to return to the type of employment they once had back in their home country. Leya is a great leader at CMC, demonstrating passion and dedication to her job. She does an exemplary job of fulfilling her duties and sets a great example in the workplace.
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!
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.