The need in Albany is clear: Refugee families need long-term mentoring and education as they build new lives after experiences of trauma, dislocation, and relocation. About 400 refugees arrive annually in New York's capital area. While government-sponsored organizations provide initial intervention, community-based support for the longer-term is critical. From 2006-2007, the local church began to build on the volunteer efforts of members in refugee resettlement. Primary needs identified at that time were childcare and educational support for children; English language and job skills for adults; and long-term support for families and ethnic groups as they work toward self-sufficiency in their new context. The initiative, now known as RISSE, (and separately incorporated, while continuing to share space with Emmaus Church and to work in close partnership with the congregation), has established a state-licensed after-school program and summer language immersion program for children. In 2011, RISSE added a daily (25-30 hours/week) language program for adults, many of whom were isolated at home and "left behind" as their children made strides in language and socialization. In the first seven months of language instruction, 27 adults have found permanent employment gains that previously seemed impossible in a very tight job market. The children's programs continue to bear fruit as students make measurable academic process. RISSE staff builds working relationships with public school teachers and administrators to identify and meet the needs of students. RISSE staff and board members also work with partner agencies (USCRI, Literacy Volunteers) and serve as active participants in a citywide effort to coordinate and enhance services. There is a citywide effort to provide a more holistic and effective response from faith communities, academic institutions, the public sector, and committed volunteers. The adult program meets a critical need. Other adult English programs are only offered a few hours a week. RISSE provides the only full-time English program. 40-50 adults depend on RISSE for instruction and support, while RISSE leadership works to find long-term ways to fund staffing and supplies. Behind the scenes, individuals in the Emmaus congregation continue to meet many needs: tutoring youth, teaching adults to drive, and picking up children for church choir and activities. Last year, with support from RISSE and the congregation, a young woman with just four years in this country (arriving with no English to an urban high school) was accepted to a private college, where she is now enrolled. We hope she will be a role model for many youth.
Goals & Objectives
1.) Seventy adults per year will receive English instruction from certified teachers using state-of-the-art curriculum and media in workable-size learning groups, in a program to be fully established by September 2012. 2.) At least 25 adults will secure employment each year, assisted by English classes and direct mentoring in the job search. 3.) To facilitate academic success by 80 after-school students. 4.) Children in full-day summer program will be exposed to museums, farms, and other educational enrichment trips. This program will be available to 80 children. 5.) Expand the support network of individuals, groups, and institutions assisting refugees.
1.) a. Build a workable funding plan for ongoing adult instruction. b. Continue to consult with school district ESL and Adult Education administrators, and Literacy Volunteers to create an effective ongoing curriculum to help students at all language levels progress in working knowledge of English. c. Purchase needed curriculum materials and media. d. Secure sufficient staff and volunteers to allow for small-group learning. e. If necessary, seek and secure a second site for satellite classes. 2.) a. Develop further relationships with potential employers. b. Develop a network of volunteer mentors to teach driving (needed for many jobs); assist with resumes and applications; coach individuals in job-search and on-the-job skills. 3.) a. Train volunteers to work more fruitfully with youth, working with our partner VISTA staffer from nearby college to recruit and train volunteers thoroughly. b. Create system of regular consultation and assessment between RISSE teachers and their students' ESL teachers in public schools. c. Create regular occasions to acknowledge and celebrate students' success. 4.) a. Welcome western NY VIM team who plan to bring sports camp and VBS. b. Encourage and welcome other program-related volunteer teams. c. Partner with neighbor churches to send RISSE students to VBS and other programs at their sites. d. Recruit volunteers with special interests/talents to work with teachers in creating special art, learning, or travel experiences. 5.) Deepen relationships with colleges, agencies, faith communities, dedicating staff time to networking and organizing.