I’ve been called to the gratitude challenge, but rather than follow the rules I’ll be posting each day about an organization whose work I am grateful for.
I am grateful for the work of The Welcome Project. You can support their work here if you feel so moved.
I serve on the board of this organization which builds the collective power of Somerville immigrants to participate in and shape community decisions.
Someone asked me today why I care about this work, and I found myself rattling off a very practical list of programs.
The Welcome Project offers ESOL classes for adults. They train bilingual high school students as interpreters. They organize a summer “culture camp” which brings together youth from immigrant families to explore their cultural backgrounds.
And all that is just great.
But a list of programs doesn’t capture why I’m grateful for this work.
Much of the work of The Welcome Project has a very practical, skill-building component. Language classes. Interpreter training. These are useful, good things.
But at its heart, the work of The Welcome Project is all about advocacy.
Interpreters increase access at public meetings. Advanced levels of language classes include a social justice component, engaging students in local issues and helping them develop the vocabulary to talk about those issues.
So, yes, on one level, The Welcome Project works to help acclimate immigrants to Somerville, but really, The Welcome Project works to acclimate Somerville to immigrants.
That is to say – everyone living within our community is part of our community.
But that state doesn’t come about on its own. Power structures favor some people over others. Power structures which are deep, long standing, and influenced by a much broader social context.
The only way to change these power structures, to build institutions which are capable of flexibly responding to a shifting citizenry, is to ensure that everyone has a seat at the table.
That everyone’s voice is heard.
That everyone’s voice is understood.
I am grateful for The Welcome Project because they work to ensure that all my neighbors’ voices are heard. That everyone is in a position to speak their mind, influence policy, and engage in the shared work of making our communities better.
I am grateful for The Welcome Project because we can’t have a Good Society without having just society, and we can’t have a just society without everyone passionately involved.