News for Amigos de Casa San José: February 12, 2021

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

How you can take action:

Casa San José is proud to partner with PICC (PA Immigration & Citizenship Coalition) in their Tuition Equity & Inclusion Campaign. Students without permanent immigration status are usually ineligible for university scholarships and financial aid, even when they have gone to school in PA for many years. This presents a great obstacle to achieving the dream of a college degree, and deprives the world of a person reaching their full potential.  Join the campaign by signing this petition and registering to hear about future plans. 

One of Casa’s young participants gave a testimonial on how vital this campaign is for others like her. Hear it on this video, scroll to 23:53.  

How you can help:

Amanda and José, our youth coordinators, know that our Amigos have tremendous skills, resources and knowledge that would add greatly to our youth programs.  Many of you have already done so!  Spanish is helpful but not necessary.  If you would like to find out more about adding to Casa’s after-school or summer programs – or have ideas to share, contact jose@casasanjose.org.

News on what we’re doing:

Casa continues to be a major resource for our families in the midst of the pandemic.  Food distributions happen every week, and emergency groceries, supplies and other assistance is delivered to families with a positive case.  Information in Spanish about every aspect of combatting the virus is posted constantly on our social media and actively disseminated in clinics and on our Facebook broadcast, Tardes Con Casa.  Support for our community members with medical, legal, housing, education, and employment needs is ongoing.

Casa is participating in the UPMC Community Vaccination Partnership, getting shots to those in our community who are 65 and over – see video proof here!  Additionally, our community organizers have been working to arrangemore vaccinations for those who can’t take advantage of that program. Laura Chu Wiens, Executive Director of Pittsburghers for Public Transit, initially connected Casa San Jose with people and resources to schedule vaccines, and Casa volunteers are providing transportation and interpretation. ¡Mil gracias to all!

Casa strongly supports Driving PA Forward – a campaign to allow undocumented immigrants to get driver’s licenses, making an enormous difference in their lives.  Casa was presente at their recent press conference about the introduction of PA House Bill 279, which now has 29 bipartisan cosponsors!  Here you can check to see if your representative is one.

Our high school students in our Jovenes con Propósito after-school program have been getting ready to navigate life after graduation thanks to Casa San Jose’s partnership with JFCS and its 412 Futures program. Here they learn about possible careers, applying to and paying for college, resume building, etc.  Later, they plan to visit local colleges and employers.  The younger kids in Puentes Hacia el Futuro will learn all about nutrition while cooking up something delicious for their families with Common Threads’ Virtual Ask-a-Chef class. 

And Chess classes, in collaboration with Queen’s Gambit, have begun!

Ruth at our East Liberty office is coordinating a new round of ESL classes in coordination with Duquesne University.  They were filled immediately with eager learners at beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.  José Luis and Diokarina in the picture discuss their experience here.

Other flus are circulating as well!  Milena at our Ambridge office just finished organizing a second round of non-COVID flu vaccines for that community.  

Several of Casa’s community members told the stories of their arrival in the US, along with Beechview residents from other countries, as part of Shaping Communities, Then and Now, a digital storytelling event on Sunday, January 24. You can watch them here.  It was a collaboration between Sally Rafson’s Sharing Our Story, the Beechview Historical Society, and Casa San José. 

Vero is working with Guillermo Perez of LCLAA to start a co-op of construction workers, both men and women.  They are often exploited by their employers and this way they can have control over their work and pay. There will be training in safety, tools, Know Your Rights, etc.

Sr. Janice is collaborating with a local church which has offered its former rectory as a home and refuge for asylum seekers.  Casa and the church will both be involved in maintenance.  She is hoping for a volunteer or intern to be a resident assistant there but will be there herself at first.  

Tardes con Casa continues every week, with vital information in Spanish from local experts, hosted by Veronica.  Here Dr. Maya Ragavan and Dr. Ken Ho clear up questions, doubts and fears about COVID vaccines. Check our  Facebook page  every Tuesday at 4:30 for the livestream.

Our story, continued:

One volunteer’s gift during the pandemic
Olivia, a senior at Allderdice, met Elena, Leo, and Adriana (none are real names) – now 10, 7, and 6 – when she was a volunteer counselor at Casa’s summer camp, Campamento Sonrisa. It was the glorious summer of 2019, when they could do anything and go anywhere – to the zoo, the swimming pool, the urban farm, the baseball stadium.
So, when everything was shut down this past summer, she asked Ruth at our East Liberty office what she could do then.  In the warm weather, she began teaching English to Adriana, the youngest, when they could meet outside.  But when school started, there was much more that needed to be done.  That’s when, with the cooperation of the children’s parents, they formed a pod. 
Now at 9:15 each morning when school is in virtual session, Olivia picks up Adriana at her home and drives her to Elena and Leo’s house, where she helps them all connect with their remote classrooms and do their assignments and homework, making sure they understand what the teacher wants them to do. When they take breaks, they go to the local parks and are taking advantage of the snow.  “They are so cute when they all get on the sled together!” 
Olivia, born in the US, learned Spanish from her Bolivian grandparents, and is happy to use it now to help these young newcomers to our country learn and thrive. She especially loves to watch them grow emotionally; she started out giving them points for good behavior, and now sees them giving points to and supporting each other.  In the meantime, Olivia is applying for college and getting all of her own schoolwork done – Allderdice is completely virtual these days – but what she is learning from being with Elena, Leo and Adriana and their families is an education in itself.

Learn more:

The most important immigration news is the arrival of a new Presidential administration committed to “restore humanity and American values to our immigration system.”  Here is Casa’s press release welcoming the Biden-Harris administration

Biden-Harris Immigration Reform Bill Summary (National Partnership for New Americans, Jan. 2021)

“New Biden rules for ICE point to fewer arrests and deportation and a more restrained agency,” Nick Miroff and Maria Sacchetti, Washington Post, Feb. 7.

“Trump Official’s Last-Day Deal With ICE Union Ties Biden’s Hands,” Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Charlie Savage, Washington Post, Feb. 1.  “A whistle-blower accused Kenneth T. Cuccinelli II of an abuse of power in making sweeping concessions to pro-Trump Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents.”

“Biden’s immigration changes too late for grandfather deported on Inauguration Day”, Mica Rosenberg, Reuters, Jan. 27.

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

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