Story by Julia DiGiacomo
The last several months at Iowa City Compassion have encompassed a wide range of service work designed to lift up immigrant and refugee communities. Although COVID-19 has caused the number of in-person volunteers to dwindle, the organization has been busy planning several new programs to engage community members while getting volunteers back on board.
Stecker says the second big project on its way in early 2021 is a computer lab, where RISE members and volunteers will teach computer skills, English, job training, and more. The room will be separated into one half for adults learning computer and job skills and the other half for ESL students who are struggling with online schooling. This set-up is designed with a family focus so parents and children can simultaneously receive the training they need to succeed.
Stecker says the computer lab will allow adults to learn essential computer skills for employment, such as designing resumes and applying for jobs online. She says the extra assistance is also of utmost importance to young ESL students who have struggled with virtual school during the pandemic.
“The stress has been that ELL kids are falling way behind, especially because the schools keep switching,” Stecker says.
In addition to the two new programs on the horizon in 2021, RISE members have been making impacts in many other areas. In late October, several RISE members assisted with the logistics of the University of Iowa’s free mobile clinic while it was stationed at Iowa City Compassion. Other RISE members focused on cooking and delivering meals to elderly who were shut-in at home. Several others spent their time interpreting meetings or assisting with a winter coat drive. Through such varied tasks, RISE members are finding their roles and helping the programs at Iowa City Compassion grow.