IRC New York Resettlement April e-update New York Resettlement Office | International Rescue Committee 122 East 42nd Street, 12th Floor | New York, NY 10168 | www.theIRC.org/NewYork None of our work would be possible without donations of money, goods, services, and time from caring individuals. To help, click here or call 212.551.0950. ***For a copy of our April 2005 newsletter, click here*** PUBLIC EVENTS VOLUNTEER WITH US! THE APRIL JOB SKILLS WORKSHOP IRC NEW YORK RESETTLEMENT OPEN HOUSE SUMMER SCHOOL READINESS PROGRAM PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS EZ-TAXES MAKING OUR MONEY WORK REFUGEE YOUTH BECOME "COMMUNITY GARDENERS-FOR-A-DAY" CELEBRATING WOMEN: “IT TOOK VILLAGES TO MAKE MY DREAM COME TRUE” GETTING ON THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY YOUNG AMBASSADORS PUBLIC EVENTS (To RSVP, please reply to this email or call 212.551.0950.) IRC NEW YORK RESETTLEMENT OPEN HOUSE Monday, April 4th, 6pm - Please join us to learn about IRC New York Resettlement programs and ways that volunteers can assist refugees. Staff will talk about volunteering in job skills workshops, our 2005 summer school readiness program, and our adult language literacy classes. Recent clients will share their resettlement experiences, talk about how working with volunteers has affected them, and answer questions from audience members. VOLUNTEER FOR THE APRIL JOB SKILLS WORKSHOP Wednesday, April 20th, 6pm to 8pm - On April 20th, volunteers will donate their time and expertise to work one-on-one with refugees, helping them to write resumes and cover letters, brainstorm the “answers” to common interview questions, and talk about plans for finding jobs. Last month, twenty-seven refugees came to IRC‟s offices in midtown Manhattan for practical advice on how to look for jobs, move beyond entry level positions, and balance school and work. Staff are available throughout the two-hour session. Volunteers receive training materials and attend a brief orientation prior to the workshop. Afterwards we will debrief over a pizza dinner. SUMMER SCHOOL READINESS PROGRAM Join us this summer at the Nightingale-Bamford School for IRC New York Resettlement‟s fifth annual Summer School Readiness Program. Designed for recently arrived refugee youth, the summer school familiarizes children and teens with rudimentary math and literacy skills and provides them with an opportunity to explore New York City. (For a program flier, click here.) If you are interested in volunteering as a teacher‟s assistant or in leading arts, recreation, or college preparation classes, please contact Kate Macom, the youth program coordinator, at 212-551-2749 or KatherineM@theIRC.org or attend our open house on May 18th at 6pm. We are also looking for contributions to help us raise $12,000 by June 1st, to match a challenge grant that we received this winter. PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS EZ-TAXES Located in a storefront on the corner of Bruckner Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue in the Mott Haven section of the South Bronx, Ariva can be hard to find. So, when the Tee Kham family arrived at Ariva‟s tax center on a windy day in March, IRC Special Projects Manager Danya Pastuszek smiled happily. The Tee Khams arrived as refugees from Burma with assistance from IRC New York Resettlement in June 2003. All four members of the family have worked since moving to the U.S. Because they had not been allowed to work for many years prior to arriving in the U.S., the Tee Khams had many questions about filing their return. They were thrilled to learn that they qualified for the Earned Income Tax Credit and would receive a refund of more than $3,500. Volunteers and staff at Ariva (which aids help low-income Bronx residents in handling their financial affairs), have helped more than 240 low-income Bronx residents file their taxes since mid-January and receive over $400,000 in refunds. IRC New York Resettlement is partnering with Ariva because its location in the Bronx is convenient for many resettled refugees and because of the enthusiasm of Kelly Dillon, Ariva‟s founder. “I am very excited to be working with IRC and helping their clients obtain tax refunds to assist in their savings and asset accumulation,” Ms. Dillon said. Through the collaboration, refugees can file their 2004 taxes and receive the Federal and State earned income tax credits, child tax credits, and other credits. Refugees also have the benefit of working with someone familiar, which creates a sense of ease in an otherwise anxiety-causing situation. “We‟re so pleased to teach refugees about the benefits of filing tax returns and about ways to file them for free. This season, IRC has tapped into an organization that can help refugees with other financial issues, too. We can‟t wait to do it again next year,” Ms. Pastuszek said. MAKING OUR MONEY WORK In January, Gregor*, who arrived in New York as a refugee from Sudan last fall, started receiving credit cards in the mail. Many of them congratulated him for being “pre-approved” and explained that he could spend thousands of dollars with no money down. Gregor was proud to think that his hard work had earned him such benefits. When he shared the news with his case manager, however, he was stunned to learn about the credit card hoax. Starting on Thursday, April 21st, Gregor will come once a week to IRC to learn about everything from credit card scams to opening and managing a 401k. The sessions will be lead by volunteer instructors Avi Kaza and Douglas Planeta. Mr. Kaza is in the U.S. Economic Research Department at Goldman, Sachs & Co. Mr. Planeta is the Director of Investment Strategy at Sageworth, a shared family office headquartered in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. During six three-hour sessions, refugees who are earning income will review the basics of budgeting and saving. They will learn about investing in CDs and other savings plans, identifying false advertising, and applying for legitimate credit cards. Refugee participants will receive assistance in opening free, no minimum balance checking and savings accounts. "There are few that are more deserving, and appreciative, of help than the refugees the IRC works with. These refugees are part of a long history of immigrants that have, in successive waves, built and energized the United States. They are also a continuous beacon of hope to the world, proving that any people, given a proper chance, can succeed. I cannot think of a more satisfying way to do public service than to work with the refugees the IRC resettles," Mr. Planeta said. REFUGEE YOUTH BECOME "COMMUNITY GARDENERS-FOR-A-DAY" On April 16, 2005, at least fifteen members of the youth program will spend the day as "community gardeners” at Bissell Gardens, an award-winning community space in the Bronx. The project will honor National Youth Service Day. Our new New Yorkers, along with American-born peers and IRC staff and volunteers, will plant in the greenhouse, maintain the children's garden, organize plant beds, and spread wood chips. Bissell Gardens' staff will also teach the students about the importance of gardening, green space, and how they affect the community. A non-profit organization, Bissell Gardens spans five city blocks. In the community garden, neighborhood residents raise their own vegetables and grow produce that is donated to area churches to feed the hungry. Bissell Gardens also grows trees, which are donated to the Department of Parks and Recreation, and maintains a children's play area and green house. If you are interested in working with us on April 16th, contact Kate Macom, youth program coordinator, at 212-551-2749. CELEBRATING WOMEN: “IT TOOK VILLAGES TO MAKE MY DREAM COME TRUE” On March 8th, in the midst of unexpected, near-blizzard conditions, more than sixty women, men, and children gathered at the IRC to celebrate International Women‟s Day. The first guest speaker was Immaculee Harushimana, who received a doctorate in English from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1999 and who has been on the faculty of Lehman College since 2000. Ms. Harushimana left Burundi in 1993 to study at New York University through a Fulbright scholarship, and she spoke candidly about Burundi‟s civil war, the death of her husband, and the long process of being reunited with her sons, who are now 12 and 14, after 10 years of separation. Ms. Harushimana also reflected on her sons‟ resettlement experiences. “How would my one bedroom apartment work for the three of us? What would I do with two teenage boys who would want to explore the new world of New York City while I worked? How would all of us adjust to a new life together, without a father figure? What would it be like for the boys to go from a physically open to a closed environment?” These questions reveal some of the myriad issues of family reunification and resettlement that refugees confront. The second guest speaker was Shqipe Malushi. Born in Kosovo, she has lived in the U.S. for more than twenty years and is the executive director and founder of the New York City based Albanian American Women's Organization (“Motrat Qiriazi”). Ms. Malushi spoke about arriving in Queens with no knowledge of English and without friends or family. Since her arrival in the U.S. she has earned a Masters Degree in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College and won numerous awards for her work with other refugees and for her commitment to bringing women together to promote peace and understanding. Among the event attendees was Dorina*, who had arrived as a refugee from Sierra Leone on March 6th, forty-eight hours before the event. As attendees started to trickle out, Dorina, who earlier that day had learned that an African-American woman (Virginia Fields) is currently campaigning to become the next New York City Mayor, marveled at Ms. Hirushimana‟s successes and the possibilities available to women in her new country. GETTING ON THE INFORMATION HIGHWAY On Thursday, April 24th, Albert*, Leon*, Enrique*, Enrique Junior* and Michael* traveled from their new homes in Elizabeth and Jersey City to IRC New York to do their first volunteer work in the U.S. Thanks to these hard-working volunteers, IRC New York Resettlement was able to receive a donation of 27 state-of-the-art G4 Macintosh computers. The computers were donated by New School University, which, in 2004, made a donation of dozens of other gently used computers. “These computers will help us reach our goals of bringing all of our clients into the „information age‟ – and will help us reach our goals of giving refugees skills that will help them get competitive jobs,” said Community and Resource Development Manager Emily Feder. We are currently looking for affordable ways to install OS 10 operating systems and basic Microsoft Office programs onto all of these computers. We are also looking for volunteers who have experience configuring and troubleshooting new computers to visit refugees‟ homes to offer technical support. To help, contact Ms. Feder at 212-551-3122 or emilyf@theIRC.org. YOUNG AMBASSADORS On March 1, 2005, 17 year old Makalay, a senior and honors student at Lincoln High School in Jersey City who was resettled by IRC New York Resettlement just last summer, spoke with confidence, maturity, and a touch of humor for the nearly 300 guests at IRC‟s seventh annual Voices for Children Luncheon. (Proceeds from the luncheon will support International Rescue Committee Children's Unit's programs in over 20 countries.) Makalay discussed her experiences as a refugee in Sierra Leone and resettling in New Jersey. Centerpieces at the luncheon were colorful vases created by refugee youth with help from volunteers from New York City and the Far Brook School in Short Hills, New Jersey. The vases chronicled the youths' journeys from Afghanistan, Burma, Burundi, Colombia, Côte d‟Ivoire, Cuba, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and Thailand to their new homes in New York City and Union County, New Jersey. WELCOMING LISSETTE MEDINA IRC New York Resettlement is pleased to welcome Lissette Medina to its offices. Lissette, a senior at Jaqueline Onassis High School on West 46th Street comes to us from the non-profit organization Futures and Options. Lissette‟s family comes from Ecuador, and Lissete is fluent in English and Spanish. She is currently applying to colleges. Over the past six weeks, she has worked to arrange International Women‟s Day, to tell refugee clients about various job development activities, and to work with refugees on how to get around on the subway. (Futures and Options arranges internships, matching high schoolers with companies and non-profits throughout the five boroughs. Students get work experience and organizations gain vital administrative support.) “Lissette is mature, dedicated, and professional. She has provided incredible support to all of the staff, and she is a fantastic source of information and support to each refugee client that she speaks to and greets,” said Resettlement Director Lang Ngan. None of our work would be possible without donations of money, goods, services, and time from caring individuals. To make a tax-deductible donation to IRC New York, click here or call 212.551.0950. Additional information about volunteering, hiring refugees, and making donations of clothing, holiday gifts, or other resources is available at www.theIRC.org/NewYork. * Clients’ names have been changed.