Somali Community Services Coalition Programs
When seeking aid, East Africans often prefer to reach out to community-based organizations due to their common language and shared culture with staff, as well as a hesitancy to rely on government systems, stemming from their past experiences. Our culturally relevant programs include:
Adult and Family Services
Upon arrival in the US, refugees receive 90 days of assistance from resettlement organizations, but often this is not enough time for families to achieve economic independence, understand American systems, and adjust to their new lives. SCSC provides services and referrals to individuals and families to help them navigate the social services system, find living wage employment, and understand forms and documents. In 2012, SCSC's two case workers provided employment assistance and social service referrals to 459 clients, and immigration and naturalization assistance to 189 clients.
K-12 After-School Program
Many East African students were born in refugee camps with little to no access to education. Upon arrival in the United States, refugee students are placed into grades based on their age rather than proficiency. SCSC's after-school program provides bilingual tutoring to help students boost their academic performance and social skills. In 2012, 54 students received individualized academic support.
Youth Summer Enrichment Program
In 2012, 19 students completed the “Summer Adventures” program, designed to combat summer learning loss. Through this 6 ½ week summer program, students receive 2 hours of academic instruction each day and participate in themed experiential learning and field trips. No student in 2012 displayed summer learning loss; in fact, every child improved in reading fluency and math computation.
Recent Successes and Current Challenges
In 2012, SCSC expanded its educational youth programming in several new directions. One was the first-ever Somali Literacy Program, in which 21 refugee students learned the basics of reading and writing in Somali. The native language literacy classes took place twice a week over 5 months. By the end of the course, students demonstrated a much clearer understanding of the importance of literacy in their native language. Abdi, a 6th grade student, said he used to think reading in Somali wasn’t important, but now he sees how it helps him learn reading and writing in English. Students demonstrated greater confidence in their bicultural identity through their increased interest in reading Somali books and by taking pride in their ability to translate for non-Somali speakers. SCSC is excited to offer this program again starting in February 2013.
Like other small organizations, SCSC faces the challenge of building high-quality programs and expanding to meet community needs in light of budget cuts and significant reductions in government contracts for refugee services. Our programs are largely dependent on the resourcefulness of our staff and volunteers (who served over 2,100 hours this past year, in addition to our two full-time Americorps volunteers!). As we seek to diversify our income, we are in need of both program and general operating support.