GPLC gives boost to Refugee Program

Each month, Jewish Family & Children’s Service helps resettle dozens of refugees who have fled from oppression, fear of persecution, imprisonment or worse. The Refugee Services staff at JF&CS is there to pick up refugees as soon as they arrive at the airport. We arrange apartments and make sure they are equipped with the basic necessities of living including clothing, furniture and food. We help arrange schooling for children and provide referrals for enrolling in Welfare and Social Security programs.

But the initial set up is just the start. That’s where our three AmeriCorps service participants come in.

AmeriCorps is a national service program, providing opportunities for individuals to do community service through a network of partnerships with organizations which recruit and deploy AmeriCorps service participants in non-profits in their communities.

The Greater Pittsburgh Literacy Council (GPLC) is one such organization, and through their generous support, JF&CS is able to host Americorps service participants Jessica Browne, Brendan Coticchia and Cecilia Mok.

AmeriCorps service participants (l-r): Jessica Browne, Cecilia Mok and Brendan Coticchia.

Jessica, Brendan and Cecilia accompany refugees to doctor appointments, find employment in the Pittsburgh region and coordinate volunteers for in-home programs, respectively. They work to establish stability in the lives of refugees who are, essentially, starting over while helping them navigate through everyday challenges.

“We see how incredibly needy refugees are. They come from impoverished backgrounds and have little or no education and they need all kinds of support,” said Don Block, executive director of GPLC. (The GPLC partnership extends beyond their AmeriCorps program: refugees participate in GPLC English as a second language programming. For refugees coming to America with little or no spoken English, gaining English language proficiency is critical to succeeding with everyday living and in the workplace.)

Thanks to dedicated partners like GPLC and the hard work of our staff and AmeriCorps service participants, JF&CS can proudly say that 86 percent of refugees served achieve self-sufficiency within three months. AmeriCorps service participants extend what JF&CS is able to do for refugees: helping families establish their new lives and encouraging them to be successful in America.

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