June 12, 2015

Responding to the needs of Immigrants: Our Chapter Call

When the Institute Chapter of 2005 voted to include the issue of immigration in the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Critical Concerns, the New Hampshire Sisters asked each other how they might respond to this new call. 

Learning English...

They first met with a group of local immigrants in order to learn about their lives and the challenges facing them in their new environment.  When asked what they needed most, they said, 'learning English'.  This was a good fit for a community with many retiring teachers.  In April of 2006, a program began in a church basement with four sisters and a small group of Sudanese women.  Now in its tenth year, there are eleven Sisters and four other volunteers dedicated to the learning and well-being of immigrant families in the Manchester area.

The initial goals were to have a program accessible to all; to teach English skills of speaking, reading, and writing; to provide preparation for citizenship; to provide child care for the pre-school children of the participants; to create a sense of community; and to learn about the lives and cultures of people whose countries of origin were only known on a map.

Providing child care...

The learning curve was nearly as great for the sisters as those who would come to the program. Together they came to understand one another with mutual learning and the sense of community grew very quickly. Celebrating new births, holidays, naturalizations, and other special events have created a happy environment in which to undertake the very difficult task of learning the English language. Raising funds to build two water wells in Sudan was a challenge and a way of including many other people in the ministry.

During these nine years there have been over 400 participants from 78 different countries and 104 people have been prepared for citizenship. Many have been able to secure jobs and to participate more fully in the wider community. In addition to learning English, other needs are on-going: assistance in reading and interpreting letters from teachers and social service agencies; assistance filling out applications for employment; a need for slightly used clothing and household items; housing needs; support in times of hardship or personal losses; and information about services and programs in the city.

Creating community...

Working with immigrants motivates the teachers and others to work for comprehensive immigration reform in collaboration with local and national organizations. Knowing the hardships people have endured in their war-torn countries and later in refugee camps and for some the constant fear of deportation has motivated many to become active in the effort to bring about change. The Sisters and their Co-workers are moved by the spirit of people who have endured so much and whose lives now emanate joy and hope in the future

Messages to: Madonna Moran rsm

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