July Update

What we’ve been up to lately:

I volunteered for Camden Catholic’s ESL class last week. This was at the invitation of their lead teacher, a contact I met at the International family day back on June 19th. The families I met come from Burma, Iraq, and Afghanistan primarily. It was fun to see how all of these cultures had been building relationships with each other already. The CCC staff is firmly supportive that an evening ESL class is a great addition that we at Crossing the Gap are offering to the community. Typically, the refugee families receive only 3 months of introductory language classes upon first arrival, but drop out of those classes once they start working due to the hours of the classes.  

Kay and I hit the streets of Collingswood for a new marketing campaign. We were able to put up fresh signs around town, meet potential students, and had a chance meeting with the Director of the Collingswood Library.

Coordinating our services with the County Library system is one of our future goals. They and one other non-profit in Camden County offer free ESL to immigrants. Their classes are provided by trained teachers and allow students to progress through levels. We are working on forming a stronger network between these two organizations, Catholic Charities’, and our own services. It may not sound complicated, but it’s been slow and unglamorous work to form this network. But I’m passionate about seeing quality services provided to the communities who need them, and we will keep pushing until the immigrants of Camden County can connect to their own community without the hindrances of childcare, transportation, and language barriers to hold them back.

 

What’s coming up

  • Monday, July 10th is our first English as a Second Language class. We’re trying to get students to confirm in advance by text,  and so far I have six confirmed students plus kids!

 

  • Saturday, July 15th is Donation Day! If you haven’t gotten a flyer yet, email me for one or check out our Facebook post. Some of the main requests are bikes and bike helmets. Then new or gently used bedding and mattresses.

 

  • Sunday, July 16th Representing at the Haddon Heights Farmers Market. Haven’t gotten your Crossing the Gap gummy armband yet? Come by and check us out!

 

Ways to Jump in

There’s always more advertising to do. If you have daytime availability on Mondays or Thursdays to join Alison on the campaign trail, get in touch! Or if you want to connect us with your local pastor, non-profit, or social services employee, just let us know! We have materials to share and would love to connect.

If you haven’t heard, we’re selling Tshirts as a means of raising support funds. You can check that out HERE.

Some other means of support including hiring Ali to do odd-jobs around the house or yard, or to send a donation to Fellowship Community Church in Collingswood with Crossing the Gap as the intended ministry of receipt.  We are also seeking an experienced Grant Writer to join our team on a voluntary basis.

Want to get a little more info? Here’s a Volunteer Questionnaire where you can tell us your preferred contact method and any ways you might want to jump in with us!

 

Speaking of Volunteering…

 

  • We could always use helpers! Our Monday classes run on a rotating schedule, so even if you’re available only once, or only on particular nights, that’s helpful! Volunteers do NOT need to have any teaching experience.

 

  • Want to volunteer to teach during daytime hours? Camden Catholic Charities is looking for helpers too. Their classes are Mondays through Thursdays from 10am to 1pm.

 

  • Don’t forget that Saturday, July 15th is the donation day. I only have three confirmed volunteers so far. Please get in touch with your availability and preferred assignment. The event runs from 10am to 3pm. I will need people from 8am until 6 or so at night, so if you can only do part of the day, it’s totally fine! Just email back with your availability.
    • We’ll need:
      • 1 Grill Masters (ie. Hot dog cookers) from 10-2
      • 2 or more Muscle Heads (ie move stuff from one person’s car to another car) from 8 till 6 (pick a shift!)
      • 1-2 Perfectionists (ie. Quality checkers for the donation items) from 10-3
      • 1-2 Lackies (ie. Do anything else we might need help with) from 8-6

 

Thank you all for your ongoing prayers & support.

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June Update

Once a month until September, CTG has a table at the Haddon Heights Farmers Market. They offer the booth for free to non-profits. This is a great opportunity for us to make connections within our own community. This past Sunday, I gained three potential volunteers and made a connection with two local businesspeople who may be able to coordinate free or discounted services for Refugees. We may not be meeting actual immigrants at these events, but networking is a key part of “crossing the gaps” between the services offered in our county.

Speaking of networking, this is where a lot of my time has been going. Following up with local businesses, building those connections, and coordinating services that can be free or discounted for immigrants is time-consuming. Sheesh! I never knew just trying to spend a day emailing and calling people could be so difficult. It is also not an easy thing to plug volunteers into. One goal I have is to take on a few committed volunteers who can become well-versed in communicating our vision and services. Then I can spread around some of this “busy work”. But I think it was good for me to pull back for a month and get the message down for myself.

One of the goals of all this networking is to produce a Resource Guide that will be translated into multiple languages and given to Refugees upon arrival to our area. Instead of being limited to what Camden Catholic Charities can give them, they’ll be made aware of all these further possibilities to receive help and support. This is a long-term goal and will probably take several months to complete. In the meanwhile though, I need to know about these resources for my own purposes so that I can refer people who contact me to what they need. So if you have any connections for us, keep them coming.

Another goal that has arisen for us is to find a person with a background in grant-writing and grant applications. I did a bit of research and found that this is a complicated and time-consuming process. CTG would like to make part of our budget come from appropriate grants, but at this time I really need someone I can lean on. It is not something I want to take weeks to learn how to do for myself. If you know of anyone who could advise us, or better yet, volunteer their services to us, that would be very helpful.

Due to all this networking, and low turnout at our May session, the English classes have been postponed through June. I think more advertising is part of what’s needed, but another concept that’s been big on my prayer list is how to meet the needs of a population when they don’t see ESL as a need. Any ESL teacher I’ve spoken with is eager and thankful for what CTG is offering. We know that greater language ability will mean greater chances for independence and success for these people. But, for a large variety of reasons, the individuals themselves don’t see this as motivation enough for coming out on a Monday night. We cannot tell people what they need, we can only make it available to them. Please join me in praying over this. Our relaunch date is July 10th, with Monday nights at 6:30pm as the only class being offered. I’ll be taking advance reservations so that a minimum number of students can be anticipated.

In the meantime, CTG decided to focus on another need: donation items. This may be less important than ESL, but it gives everyone a very practical way to see that CTG cares about our immigrant neighbors. Therefore, on July 15th, we are hosting Donation Day at the FCC parking lot. Please refer to our list of requested items.

Donation Drive Poster
We will provide hot dogs, water, and music. People can stop by between 10am and 3pm to drop off their goods. Volunteers will be needed to give out food, to do quality checks on the goods, and to load/unload items. At the end of the day, I plan to drive a moving truck to bring all the goods to either Camden Catholic Charities (who furnishes refugees’ new homes with it) or to our friends at Hope Thrift Store. (We’re working to build partnerships with thrift stores in our area because it is an affordable way for immigrants to obtain quality goods.)

My hope is to run an event once a month. The event for June was International Family Day at Somerdale Park School. It happened this past Saturday, June 17th. It was a great opportunity to meet the immigrant families they are working with, and also to make connections with the volunteers and staff within CCC. Many of them were interested in volunteering with us now too. Sorry to not have invited any of you, it came up a little too short notice.

Thank you for your ongoing support and prayers. I’m grateful for the opportunities that have opened up so far and hope to continue to “cross the gap” between immigrants and locals as we build our network, foster these connections, and provide services.

Would you like to get involved? Fill out our volunteer opportunity questionnaire!