Have you made any collaborations in the community thus far? If so, which ones are you most excited about, and if not, what are some partnerships you would like to make? How are you hoping to foster these collaborations during your year of service?
Mary’s Place is a very fortunate little organization. So many other agencies, organizations, and schools love to put in their time and effort to support our cause in assisting the refugee community. As Mary’s Place grows, and believe me it’s growing, we need more help than ever before. Organizations and community groups I have made connections with during my service so far are Nazareth College, Saint John Fisher College, First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford, Cornell University, Geneseo, East High School, RIT, Wegmans, Organization for Women’s Literacy (OWL), and Warner School of Education.
Nazareth has had a long standing relationship with Mary’s Place through the Community Service Department’s program, Partners for Serving, where several students come to Mary’s Place twice a week to play with and tutor the children. Now Dr. McPhail of the Education Department is assisting Mary’s Place by having her graduate Curriculum Development class help create the ESL curriculum for the adult classes provided here. I was able to make this connection through Joshua Synder, the head of the ESOL program at RIT, who is also assisting Mary’s Place’s ESL program by donating resources and offering me guidance with creating the ESL program and curriculum.
Saint John Fisher, through Sally Vaughan, has agreed to start a volunteering partnership with Mary’s Place. Four times a week they will be sending 5 to 7 Fisher students in the Education Program to tutor adults in English and children with homework as well as teach the ESL classes. This is a great opportunity because, while we get volunteers to help tutor our refugees, the Fisher students get hands on experience with teaching that can really benefit their future careers!
We have set up so that East High School now brings several students once a week to do volunteer service through their East Takes Action Program, which is coordinated by Evelyn DeSantis. The students spend time with the children by playing with them and tutoring with homework. Cornell University and Geneseo also makes the trip up here on college breaks to spend time with our children.
Over at the University of Rochester, OWL assists by sending students who help teach our ESL classes and tutor adults one on one in English. The Warner School has been assisting with our ESL curriculum, and set up an Internship position at Mary’s Place where the Intern is helping to create and collaborate the Green Card Program.
Wegmans now brings food and bread to Mary’s Place on Saturdays, as well as providing gift cards to buy their food for our holiday parties and fund raising events. The Youth Group of the First Presbyterian Church of Pittsford is working to create fund raisers and donation drives on behalf of Mary’s Place.
Other groups we have partnered with are Providence Housing, Camp Stella Maris, Foodlink, Knights of Columbus, Brockport College, Charles Resettlement House, the Webster Church of Christ, and University of Rochester. Each one is very important to us, but the ones I am most excited about are having the students, both high school and college, come to serve here. It doesn’t just help us, but them as well I think. They gain experience to help them become teachers, counselors, social workers, etc, and become exposed to the joys and sorrows of the refugee world. I’ve had a few students tell me their time here has set them on a career path towards refugee studies and services!
Some connections I am hoping to make in the future for Mary’s Place during my service is with Jericho Road, several sports teams at Nazareth College, RIT’s Philanthropy Club, Saint Rita’s Boy/Girl Scouts and Youth Group, Volunteers of America, and Literacy Volunteers of Rochester, Early College International High School, and many more! Along with Egzon Beha, from Rochester Refugee Resettlement Services, I hope to gain some insight into how to organize and run a refugee outreach from Jericho Road out in Buffalo. Saint Rita’s and Naz’s sports teams want to help us with our move in January, and RIT’s Philanthropy Club would like to fund raise for Mary’s Place. As far as the rest, the possibilities seem endless!