My service was rewarding. I was able to grow professionally through gaining skills in program development and project management as well as learn more about cultures that I previously knew little about.
AmeriCorps member, Bethany Christian Services
I think that my biggest accomplishment this year was just helping refugees to be better tenants, neighbors, and citizens as they make their transition to American Life.
AmeriCorps member, Bethany Christian Services
I gained people skills, communication skills and I honed my ability to handle a complex and complicated schedule.
AmeriCorps member, CWS Lancaster
The most rewarding experience for me was that I was able to reach out to so many different clients who needed Housing ICO. I might forget them down the road, but they will always remember me as someone who helped them know more about housing in the USA.
AmeriCorps member, CWS Greensboro
A client was referred to the ICO member due to a pest infestation problem in his apartment. The client did not understand how to prepare for pest control or how to clean to avoid a cockroach infestation. The client also struggled with writing a check for rent. After several sessions, the client was able to successfully prepare for a pest control on their own, correctly indicate tenant responsibilities, and write a rent check with all components and send it in at the correct time.
I recently enrolled a secondary migrant into health ICO. She has a child with disabilities, and prior to coming to Harrisonburg, had a full-time daytime nurse to attend to the child. However, in Harrisonburg the family does not have access to a full-time in-home nurse, due to an area shortage. As a result, the mother is unable to leave the home freely as she must be with her child. The client was very stressed with this burden. While she has a good understanding of the US health care system, she was pre-assessed at the advance level on the program’s assessments, she needed assistance in managing her stress. She was enrolled in Health ICO and was provided ICO classes and resources on stress management and self-care. Because of the classes, the client has taken up crochet to assist in managing her stress levels (she loves it!). Additionally, the client doesn’t have transportation, which was making it difficult to pick-up her child’s prescription medications. She notified me of this challenge, so I spoke with her about finding a pharmacy that delivers medications. Together, we researched different pharmacies and the client spoke speak with a representative and arrange for home delivery of her child’s medication. The member has noted a significant decrease in the client’s stress level as a result.
CRIS had a Sudanese family of 7 arrive last Spring. It was a single mom and her 6 kids; one is disabled. They were the first family that was referred to me when I started here in June. It was through my ICO that I could learn that the family was in the dark about the disabled son’s prognosis and the unknown had caused a lot of stress on the mother. I notified our PC case manager who enrolled her and her son to the PC program. I continued to provide health ICO to the mother for a couple of months. It was amazing seeing the progression that we made throughout her time in ICO. We covered the extent of their health insurance plan, child health, medical transportation, the pharmacy, and many other topics. She moved from the proficient level to advance on the assessment. The mother can confidently schedule medical transportation and voice her concerns at her appointments. I think that learning about our healthcare system has allowed her to be more proactive towards seeking the answers to her son’s condition and taking steps to address some of her own medical needs.
I had a client referred to housing ICO who had a significant water leak in their apartment. The water damage caused black mold to grow on every wall within the apartment. The landlord had been notified by the clients, but failed to act for three months. The client was provided ICO classes on rights and responsibilities of tenants and landlords, the process of rent escrow, the steps to take to ask the landlord to make repairs, ways to clean the home and how to protect themselves against future landlord abuse. In this case, the landlord failed in their duties even after the client filed the necessary paperwork and documentation to have the repairs fixed. Other clients started reporting issues with this landlord, and CRIs had to call code enforcement on the apartment complex due to health concerns. The client’s case managers assisted the family in finding housing elsewhere. Within a few weeks in their new home the clients could request repairs on the home and are confident in navigating housing issues.
At CWS Greensboro, I prepare and plan on giving Housing Orientation to our newly arrived clients. The housing orientation is conducted on various topics like housing safety, cleanliness, bugs, landlord and tenant’s responsibilities. I also assist our clients in going over their lease. This has basically helped a lot to clarify clients and landlord’s misunderstanding of their own responsibilities. I also help the landlords and tenants develop a close relationship so that they feel comfortable to understand each other’s way of life, religion, their culture and practices.
Recently, a client’s tenancy was terminated by a landlord who wants to sell the client’s home. Through the Refugee AmeriCorps Program, the local AmeriCorps member was able to educate the client on how to find new housing by teaching her the best ways identify, schedule and setup home viewing appointments. Furthermore, the member was able to assist the client in viewing homes and how to talk to a landlord and review a lease. In total, the member was able to provide an additional 14 hours of support to this client. The client was able to find a home for her and her family, and feels more confident in her abilities to do so in the future.
CWS Refugee AmeriCorps Member assists client in navigating US healthcare system.
Mackenzie, Columbus, Ohio
AmeriCorps member Mackenzie shares why she serves in the AmeriCorps program at CWS’ Refugee AmeriCorps conference in January 2017.
One of my clients became pregnant shortly after arriving in the US as a refugee and was nervous about how to access prenatal care and have a healthy pregnancy here. Adjusting to life in a new country is hard for anyone, but this was another added layer of stress for this client. As part of the CWS Refugee Americorps Initiative, I was able to provide additional hours of community orientation to her and her husband about the US healthcare system, accessing healthcare resources, prenatal care, and infant safety practices. I helped her get set up with an OB/GYN that she liked, and followed up with her throughout and after her pregnancy to make sure she had all the skills and resources she needed to be successful and self-sufficient. I am inspired every day by the resilience of my clients in the face of uncertainty and their drive to provide healthy, safe homes for their families.
I worked with a recently arrived family of three with a baby on the way. They were having a difficult time understanding their health insurance and knowing what, if any, pre-natal services were available. After spending multiple one-on-one sessions and helping them navigate the medical and pre-natal appointments. I was able to successfully and confidently exit both the mother and the father from the program. They recently had a healthy baby boy and have reported feeling confident in their ability to navigate health systems on their own.
Cassidy, CWS-Palm Beach
“At CRIS in Columbus, OH, I help newly-arrived refugees become health literate and self-sufficient in accessing and utilizing healthcare services. I worked with an Afghani woman who was pregnant with her first child and nervous about how to get to the doctor and how to have a healthy pregnancy while adjusting to life in a new country. I worked one-on-one with her to increase her confidence and knowledge of the US healthcare system, and she recently gave birth to a healthy baby boy!”
Reflections of an AmeriCorps Member
As my year of service as a Refugee AmeriCorps member at MCC comes to an end, I’ve been reflecting on what we have accomplished. The creation and launch of our In-Home Intensive Cultural Orientation (ICO) classes has been a rewarding highlight.
MCC’s Intensive Cultural Orientation (ICO) Workshops empower newly arrived refugees by providing them the education, skills, and resources needed to succeed and attain self-sufficiency in their new community. Typically, students attend a 3-week, classroom ICO Workshop that covers the topics of transportation, safety, health, education, immigration, financial literacy, renter’s education, home orientation, and job readiness. In order to expand the accessibility of these workshops and ensure everyone can participate, we developed an In-Home ICO curriculum and trained a team of passionate and dedicated volunteer teachers.
I recently asked one of our In-Home ICO teachers, Annie Dressen, why she volunteered. “I just want new Minnesotans to feel welcome here,” she said. “I love learning more about the people I’m presenting to, where they’ve come from, and what they strive for being new to this country.” Another In-Home ICO teacher, Charlie Brown, added that he, “has been impressed, not only by the courage of the refugee families I have worked with, but the passion to learn and the desire to have success in this country”. He went on to say, “This is a special privilege for me to be welcomed into each home I have visited, and experience the warmth, friendliness and joy with everyone”. Many of our volunteers express similar sentiments, and we are lucky to have them.
Our In-Home classes have successfully enabled us to provide vital ICO education for all of our clients. Annie Dressen states that, “I think being in their home with [them] provides a sense of openness to ask questions, gain clarity, or go more in-depth depending on the topic. It is customize-able to the participants and has taught me things I didn’t know either!” Many of our In-Home ICO volunteers have expressed a greater awareness of the refugee experience in our community, and an increased understanding of all that goes into navigating new and complex health, housing, education, and employment systems. Charlie Brown summed up his experience by saying, “Bottom line is, I have enjoyed each student I have met and think about them often, hoping for their success”.
Recently, I taught an In-Home ICO class for a newly arrived Karen family. The class took place at the home of the grandparents, who the family is now reunited with after 10 years. With three generations of the family huddled together in the living room, we reviewed the curriculum and the grandparents enhanced the class by sharing stories and offering advice to their newly arrived family members, like, “don’t forget that the bus doesn’t give you change when you pay!” The family took meticulous notes in their notebooks and expressed their excitement over starting school soon and exploring Minnesota with their Co-Sponsor team. I’m so thankful for experiences like these and having the opportunity to laugh and learn together with new members of our Minnesota community!