Last night I had the privileged of joining the board of The Welcome Project.
I’ve been lucky to work with The Welcome Project, serving for the past two years as the chair of the event committee for YUM: A Taste of Immigrant City. (Save the date: April 10, 2014!).
I’m excited to become more involved with this tremendous organization and see them continue to grow.
This nonprofit “builds the collective power of Somerville immigrants to participate in and shape community decisions.”
They offer a powerful mix of service and advocacy, equipping residents with important skills and knowledge while working to close participation gaps.
Many immigrants are shut out of civic life.
It’s not at all helpful to say, “if you want to change the system, vote!” to someone who isn’t eligible to register.
It’s not at all helpful to say, “if you want to know what’s happening in your community, attend a community meeting!” to someone who doesn’t speak, or isn’t fluent in, the language the community meeting is held in.
It’s not at all helpful to say, “if you care about your child’s education, get involved in their school!” to someone who is working multiple jobs, doesn’t speak the same language as the teacher, or who is unfamiliar with the educational system and process.
Obviously not every immigrant faces all of the challenges illustrated above.
But enough of them do that important voices are missing from our community.
And that’s bad for all of us.
So The Welcome Project offers ESOL classes, including special topics course like “English for Helping Your Child in School,” and – in partnership with the Somerville Community Corporation – “English for Helping Our Communities.”
They run an amazing Liaison Interpreter Program of Somerville (LIPS), which trains bilingual teens to interpret at community events and meetings. They organize a First Generation to College Program a Summer Camp/Digital Storytelling Program and the Mystic Wizards Homework Help Club.
Service and empowerment.
A powerful combination.