News for Amigos de Casa San José: Sept. 4, 2020

Dear Amigos de Casa San José,
Welcome back to our email newsletter!

How to take action:

The election is around the corner!
Not only for President, but for US Representatives to Congress, State Representatives and Senators, and State Attorney General. Their policies will impact immigrant communities – and all of us – enormously.  Our state representatives in particular will decide on key issues for immigrants such as access to driver’s licenses and tuition equity.
We join our partner PICC in recommending:

1. Register to Vote by Oct. 19, 2020

The first step is making sure you are registered to vote. All eligible residents of PA can register online (the application is available in English and Spanish by choosing the language on screen). If you have moved recently, check your registration and update with your current address.

2. Request your Mail-In Ballot by Oct. 27, 2020 – but don’t wait, do it now!

Stay safe and healthy by voting from home! All registered voters in PA can request a mail-in ballot this year (the application is available in English and Spanish by choosing the language on screen).

3. When your ballot arrives, fill it out and return it by Nov. 3, 2020 – but the sooner the better!

Your completed ballot must be RECEIVED by the county board of election by 8:00pm, Tuesday Nov. 3, 2020. This means you should mail the ballot early or drop it off in person at your county election office.

If you include an email address you will receive email updates on the status of your application and ballot. You can also check the status online.

4. If you choose not to vote with a mail-in ballot, you can vote in-person on Nov. 3, 2020

If you want to vote in-person, polls will be open 7:00am-8:00pm on Tuesday, Nov. 3, 2020. Polling locations are likely to change this year, so make sure to check for your polling location before you leave the house on Election Day!

For more information and resources on PA elections: www.votespa.com.

Another way to take action:

The Driver’s License for All Bill has been introduced in the PA House!HB2835 will:

1. Make everyone safer by ensuring that all drivers have passed the driving exam and are licensed to drive, regardless of immigration status
2. Protect the privacy of all residents of Pennsylvania who have driver’s licenses
3. Stimulate the economy by expanding drivers eligible to purchase car insurance
4. Provide valid identification to everyone
5. Allow all drivers to have proof of insurance and registration
6. Assure that all drivers have learned the rules & responsibilities of the road

We need to make this bill become law.  PA immigrants’ lives will be immeasurably better.  Many states have already done this!
Here are ways you can get involved:

Sign the Driving PA Forward Coalition’s petition
Contact your state legislator and ask them support HB2835
● Participate in the Coalition’s 40 Days of Prayer and Fasting

Contact the Driving PA Forward coalition for more information.

How you can help:

Donate to our new Client Assistance Fund!  We created this fund because we are covering many more incidental expenses for our families during this period.  Some examples have been: coronavirus tests, desks for kids attending school at home, rent assistance, utilities, phone bills, dental bills, eyeglasses, baby clothes, gift cards for groceries and cleaning supplies, etc.  Just click on our Donate button, and under “Reason for Donation”, select “Client Assistance Fund.”  As always, many thanks!

We need books in Spanish for the Women’s Center and Shelter and for Allegheny County Jail. We also need new ESL workbooks. Please drop them off addressed to Laura Perkins at our Beechview office, 2116 Broadway, on Wednesdays (starting Sept. 16) from 11am -1pm and 6-8 pm, or if you’re in the East End, on the porch anytime at 305 S. Lang Ave., Pittsburgh 15208.

News on what we’re doing:

Much of what we have been doing in the last few weeks is to prepare for a devastating surge of evictions after the moratorium expired, but we are greatly relieved by the news that the CDC is establishing a new moratorium on evictions for nonpayment of rent through end of the year.

 Last weekend we held our annual Back-to-School Event (with COVID protocols.)  Casa San Jose provided backpacks filled with lots of school supplies and a surprise toy.  Families got information about the Pittsburgh Public Schools, health care, food resources and our services. The parents also met with a representative from Literacy Pittsburgh who told the about their free virtual ESL classes and other offerings. Many thanks to our amazing volunteers, staff members, individual donors and various organizations who tirelessly support the Latinx community during this challenging back-to-school season.

We are launching a Women’s Sewing Group, all of whom will receive sewing machines and instruction.  They will start by participating in the Days for Girls project, making hygiene products for Central American women.  This is in partnership with Brothers Brother Foundation.  Veronica says of their first meeting, “The Moms were so excited about the Days for Girls project.  They’re ready to start sewing!”

Our Ambridge office is up and running, located in the Good Samaritan Church.Milena Narkevic is Casa’s Coordinator for Latino Outreach there. Last month they participated in the cash and food distributions, and over 2 days in August, Vision To Learn performed free vision screenings there for approximately 40 children from Beaver County. Special thanks to that organization and to Cindy Dechayne from the parish for coordinating these free exams.  

We welcome our new interns!  Elizabeth Giglia and Billy Reeves from Duquesne University will be working with our youth program. Emma Larabee, from the Univ. of Pittsburgh, will be part of our ISAC client services team. In the last 2 months, our cash distribution program provided 715 families with a $700 grant each. These households did not receive any US federal subsidy.  When they arrived at our office, people received food and necessities, vital information from other service organizations, a chance to fill out the census forms, and the knowledge that someone cares.  We are deeply grateful to all the organizations, donors, and volunteers who made this happen.  We wish it could have been more, seeing the need that becomes more urgent every day.
We realized that we needed a more stable food distribution program, so under Veronica’s management, Casa is opening a Food Pantry at our Beechview office on Wednesdays, 11 am-1 pm, and 6-8 pm, starting September 16!  Right now we are moving in refrigerators and freezers, and making space.

Our youth coordinators are expecting an increased need for virtual tutoring as our youth gets back to school.  We are arranging for tutors from the Univ. of Pittsburgh and Duquesne, as well as from our ever-generous volunteers, and making sure that families get the needed technology and help setting it up.
Tardes con Casa, our Facebook Live series, continues with Episode 7: Justice at Work. Verónica Lozada, Casa San José’s Community Organizer, speaks with special guest, Felipe Rodriguez from Justice At Work. He shares vital information about paid sick leave, emergency medical and family leave, and health and safety in the workplace.

And to see all the necessary information we share with our community – about schools, flu vaccines, COVID-19 testing, the Census, tenants’ rights, childcare, scholarships, internet service, Health Department notices, and much more – visit our Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube pages.  Thanks to our new Communications Specialist, Andrea Padilla, they are updated constantly.

Our story, continued:

Diana Escobar-Rivera, Casa’s Youth Services Director, and José Ochoa, our Youth Program Coordinator, directed our virtual camp this summer.  There were two sessions, each 4 weeks long, with 25 students the first week, and 30 the second week, ages 6-9 and 10-13.  It was led by 7 teachers and 3 interns.  All the books and materials needed for the projects were provided and delivered in advance.  Our partners included Mexico Lindo, Assemble, the Carnegie Museums, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Here are only some of the experiences:

Armando Jimenez, an artist from Oaxaca, Mexico specializing in creating hand-carved and painted figures, gave live lessons over the internet in creating Alabrijes, bright folk art sculptures. The children watched and listened and created their own marvels.
● Teresa Andersen, a nursing student at the Univ. of Pittsburgh, taught them how to make their own first aid kits, and also how to use them.
● Raven Hilfiker, who is getting a degree in Social Work from the Univ. of Pittsburgh, gave lessons in mindfulness and identifying emotions, through making glitter jars and Oobleck.
● They read books together and discussed them:  ¿De donde eres?/Where are you from? in which a girl gets an unexpected answer from her abuelo.  And Cosechando esperanza, the history of Cesar Chavez, the great civil rights leader and organizer of farmworkers. 
● At the request of some parents, who feared their children were forgetting their native language, they had Spanish lessons. One father said that this opened his child’s mind, and that he now spoke Spanish at home.
● Sara, from the Carnegie Museum of Natural History, showed what archeologists and anthropologists do.
● Assemble, a Community Space for Art and Technology, had the kids build model cities, electrical circuits and motors. 

The children got to know each other over the weeks and appreciated this safe space for Latino kids.  They learned to follow rules and lost their shyness.  Sometimes when a question was asked, one of the parents answered in the background.  They talked about what they wanted to do in the future: be a teacher, an engineer, an artist, a mathematician, a leader.

Jose described a meaningful experience they had together.  They were reading the book about Cesar Chavez. Some of the kids who were born here heard what the others who just arrived were enduring.  One said that a schoolmate threw him on the ground and hit him, asking “what are you doing in my country?”  He decided to control himself and not fight back; he didn’t want to damage the image of immigrant youth.  Afterwards, he went to his schoolmate and explained why he was here.   Children can share their feelings in this kind of space – about their country, about the quarantine, about their lives. 

One doesn’t imagine that all this can happen in little boxes on a screen, but this team accomplished something extraordinary.

Learn more:

Thank you for joining us, and stay safe and strong!

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