A letter from
Ama S. Frimpong, Executive Director, Mano al Hermano
Immigrants, especially undocumented immigrants, in our community constantly deal with insecurity, fear, and anxiety, due to the uncertainty of whether they will be removed from the country, or allowed to remain in the country. Fear of whether they will be separated from their families. I know this feeling, because I have been one of those immigrants. Will I be made to leave the country? Will I have to leave my school? Will I have to leave everything that I’ve come to know and love? What will I be going back to? These are questions that I, along with many others in my high school, asked myself as a 14-year old who overstayed my tourist visa to stay in this country. I came from a good, safe home in Ghana, and yet, I was plagued daily by these questions. There are some in our community that are here because they fled gang violence, abuse, and hopelessness in their home countries. They are plagued with even deeper, greater questions every day, with the constant threat of deportation hanging over their heads. This leads to a life of hiding in the shadows. A life lived in fear. So, upon assuming my role as Executive Director of Mano al Hermano in January, I quickly learned and realized that there was a need. A need to make our immigrant brothers and sisters feel welcome, a need to let them realize that they were not alone, a need to make them feel a part of the community, a need to reach out to them. Recognizing this need, Mano al Hermano launched the Community Education and Outreach Program.
Over the past eight months, this Program has developed into three subparts:
Organizing clinics, information sessions, and workshops for our immigrant community. This year, we have held four legal programs, during which our Spanish-speaking immigrant population has had the opportunity to receive accurate, unbiased information from licensed attorneys. Some of them had never before consulted with an immigration attorney to determine whether there were avenues available for them to gain lawful status, or become U.S. citizens. Most recently, in September, we held a DACA information session, led by an attorney and specialist in immigration law from Winston-Salem. However, the goal is to expand the subject matter of these sessions to cover not only legal matters, but also, health and nutrition, financial planning, and other relevant topics. We want to educate our immigrant population, and help them to make informed decisions for the welfare of their families.
Increasing access to community services and resources. We have developed partnerships with a number of nonprofit organizations, to assist them in better serving our immigration population. Our immigrant population often times is unaware of the services and resources available to them, due in part to an inability to speak and/or understand English. We work with organizations to make their services better known and understood, e.g., by assisting with translation of materials, or providing them with interpreters at their events. We actively share this information in Spanish, so that the immigrant population not only understands what is available to them, but feels comfortable accessing those resources. On January 21, we are partnering with the League of Women Voters on a bilingual program that will showcase ten local nonprofit organizations and service providers, so that our community knows who they are and what services they offer. Perhaps the biggest step under this prong is that Mano al Hermano is in the process of resettling two refugees—a 15-year old Salvadoran girl and her infant son—to Dare County, reuniting them with their family. Mano al Hermano will be completing all resettlement services for them, including ensuring health exams, enrollment in school, and many, many more. This is exactly what we aim to do as part of our Community Outreach Program—connect people with the resources that they need.
Giving presentations to our non-immigrant population to help promote understanding of our immigrant population. We have given presentations to a number of groups and at a number of community events this year. Most notably, in May, we presented at an Immigration program sponsored by the League of Women Voters. The presentation can be viewed in its entirety here. We have presented to the Manteo Rotary Club, Dare County Democratic Party, First Flight Lions Club, and many more. The idea is not to convert anyone, but rather, to provide basic, factual information that allows our community to understand each other. On November 30, we will present at an Immigration Forum, in partnership with the North Dare Ministerial Association. I have attached a flyer.
I have been overwhelmed by the support that our Community Education and Outreach Program has received in just a few months. In the spring, almost immediately after we began this Program, we received financial awards from All Saints’ Episcopal Church to support it. In addition, this summer, the Outer Banks Community Foundation awarded us a grant to support the Program. This fall, we have been awarded a sub-grant from the North Carolina Justice Center to support the Program. I believe that the Program will only continue to grow as the community learns about it.
This is why I need your help. Mano al Hermano has a staff of two, myself and our Family Literacy Director. I am responsible for this Program, and I need as many volunteers as I can to accomplish its goal, which is to unite and strengthen our community.
I need help organizing and executing clinics and events, seeking funding, organizing records, marketing, anything. No amount of help is too small. Only by working together can we build a stronger and more united community.
Will you join me?