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Showing posts from May, 2010

Chicago Microfinance Conference - Part 2 of 2

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By: Carolyn (Carolina) Kloecker
During a “Lunch & Learn” session, we were able to choose from many different presentations. The one I chose was related to the Spanish-speaking population in the U.S. The presenters were MBA students from UCLA, and they mainly talked about the market potential of this group for microfinance and financial services. There are over 1.6 million Hispanic-owned microbusinesses in the U.S. Also, in the past year, only 7% of underserved microentrepreneurs were reached by microenterprise programs. In terms of unmet needs, 20.6 million Latinos are unbanked or underbanked, and 51% of Latinos cite “financial issues” as a reason for not having checking or savings accounts, based on a survey by ACCION USA. The conclusion by the panelists was that more outreach is needed, in order to inform people about their options.
Some of these financial service options include credit, business and consumer loans, insurance, and grants. I found this diagram very in…

UIUC: Summer Intern Position

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by Ann Abbott


The internship has been filled.  


Although the Spanish & Illinois Summer Internship Program was cancelled this year due to funding restraints, we have one internship partner who is making it work this summer:  the Latino Partnership of Champaign County (LPCC) in collaboration with the East Central Illinois Refugee Mutual Assistance Center (ECIRMAC, also known as The Refugee Center).

If you are a UIUC student who has taken at least one of the Spanish & Illinois courses (preferably SPAN 232 or 332, but if you took SPAN 202 with me in the fall of 2009 you can also apply), has a passion for speaking Spanish, wants to get further experience working in the community, is a creative self-starter and can work fairly independently, please apply!

The position is part-time (for a total of 265 hours), pays $10 an hour and will last throughout the summer.  You can probably work out the scheduling with the internship supervisor, Mr. Adam Chacon.

Complete these application materia…

How Do Service-Learning Students Picture Their Community?

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by Ann Abbott


"Where is the line between 'us' and 'them'? Between 'our community' and 'you people'?"

This is the opening line from an article written about the research findings of Prof. Cara Wong, a political scientist at the University of Illinois.  She states that people's ideas about who belongs to their in-group go beyond black-white or Republican-Democrat; it depends on how they identify their community and what groups belong to that community.  (Click on the link to read the article; it provides really good examples, including a comparison of how Baton Rouge and Houston received--and conceived of--New Orleans refugees after Katrina.)

I would love to collaborate with Prof. Wong to research how our Spanish community service learning (CSL) students assimilate (or not) the community members they encounter during their CSL work into their own concept of community.  It seems to me that a pre-test and post-test could lead us toward a preli…

Student Reflection

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Chicago Microfinance Conference - Part 1 of 2
By: Carolyn (Carolina) Kloecker

On Friday, May 7th, I attended the Chicago Microfinance Conference at the University of Chicago. I became interested in microfinance, and especially entrepreneurship, when I began to talk to a loan officer at ACCION Chicago , a Spanish & Illinois community partner. After taking Spanish in the Community, I was able to get an internship with ACCION through Spanish & Illinois. Because of my interest in Microfinance, I joined the Illinois Microfinance Brigades, a new RSO on campus, and we attended the conference together. Many of my former co-workers from ACCION were in attendance at the conference, as well as a number of other representatives from domestic and international microfinance institutions.

I will review some notes from a couple sessions that I found extremely interesting and relevant to both entrepreneurship, community relations, and the Spanish-speaking population.

The first session that I a…

Student Reflection

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by Andrew Piotrowski


End-of-the-Year Reflection

Looking back on my semester volunteering at ECIRMAC, I cannot think of a more rewardable experience I have had outside the classroom in my two years at the University of Illinois.  Seriously, apart from all the social activities outside, this was the first opportunity I had in a long while in which I looked forward to adding to my daily workload.  Although I was admittedly skeptical about taking on an extra two hours of work per week with my already full schedule, I am fortunate that I did so.  In looking back over my previous posts, I am able to reflect better on the issues that confront the immigrant community in our country on a daily basis.

The issues that rage on in our public discourse about the government’s role in society are all issues that directly affect the immigrant community, as well.  Apart from the obvious immigration reform, issues such as healthcare, law enforcement, and private accountability are all too prev…

Student Profile: Lindsey Meyers

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by Kirsten Hope




With graduation just a few short days away, senior Lindsey Meyers (on the left in this photo) is enjoying her last few days in Champaign and preparing to walk across the stage and earn her degree in Psychology.  The Claredon Hills native faces the uncertain real world with all other graduating seniors, but she differs from all of them in one important way.  After graduation and spending the summer working, Lindsey will travel to Quito, Ecuador to spend a year volunteering with The Working Boys Center in the South American city.  This mission provides a center for kids and families on the street in Quito to create a home, take classes on various trades and learn English.  Working with 10-15 other postgraduate volunteers, Lindsey will work as a teacher in the center, providing any number of classes to students of all ages.


“I’ve always known about it (The Working Boys Center) and I’m active in volunteering and teaching,” said Lindsey as she explained her reasons for going …

Student Reflection

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by Lara Sanoica
I attended our last team meeting today to wrap up some loose ends before we all break for the summer session.Although we won’t meet physically, we’re hoping to keep maintenance projects (newsletters, phone calls, databases, tech glitches) going during the summer.
The Costa Rican university students will also be on summer break, and will likely not be able to collaborate until Fall 2010.In the meantime, I’m hoping that we will be able to set up a workable timeline that chronicles our (US) involvement with the Nuestra Voz project.One of the harshest criticisms of international organizations based in developed countries is that the organization encourages a hierarchical structure that perpetuates foreign supremacy over a host nation.For example, a Utah-based NGO decides to go build wells in East Africa.When these altruistic volunteers go to these waterless villages, they build wells the American way with American tools, and then leave.What if the village needs a new well?To…

Student Reflection

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by Andrew Piotrowski


Public Benefits

Perhaps one of the greatest aspects of community service is the awareness that a person gains just by going outside the walls of the classroom to realize how vastly different people’s lives can become.  We often become so wrapped up in our own business that we easily overlook how fortunate so many of us (myself included) are to be here at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign.  However, when we allow our social “bubble” to burst, the harsh realities that affect the people outside of campustown set in.  Although it is a sobering and difficult experience, I believe that it is also a very important one, no matter what career path one may choose.

This past Sunday, I was put in charge of holding an informational meeting regarding public benefits that members of the immigrant community may be able to take advantage of.  I organized the session in conjunction with St. John’s Catholic Church at the Newman Center on 6th and Armory.  Altho…

Urbana-Champaign: Plan Ahead to Translate at Booker T. Washington

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by Ann Abbott
photo by CLACS at UIUC


Plans are already being made for next school year, and getting families registered at Booker T. Washington is a big undertaking.  I have translated at this event in the past and really learned a lot about the school and the families.  Please plan to help!


2010-2011 Elementary School Registration - Booker T. Washington
August 4, 2010 ~ 12:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Please note that both Spanish and non-Spanish speaking volunteers are welcome at Washington for the 2010-2011 registration.  Volunteers will be needed to assist with translation as well as distributing and collecting registration materials during this time.  Further details will be given the day of registration.  Please email Nikia Kyles at kylesni@champaignschools.org if you can assist.

Nikia M. Kyles
Office Manager
Booker T. Washington
1103 N. Neil St.
Champaign, IL 61820
Phone: (217) 351-3901
Fax: (217) 351-3724

Student Reflection

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by Lara Sanoica
These days I’m concentrating on reconnecting with the sixteen Costa Rican organizations that I called over the last two weeks.The initial rush I got from talking with these groups for the first time has worn off and it’s business as usual.Those first phone calls were fun, but now I can focus on the needs of each business and get them successfully registered with the website.After initial introductions and courtesy calls, I’m calling back organizations that are still interested, and getting information to those under new management via email.I was surprised that I would face the challenge of convincing organizations to join Nuestra Voz.The first chunk of contacts that I wanted to tackle were supposed to be led by individuals who had already expressed their interest in the project a year ago through preliminary interviews in Costa Rica.However, a lot can change in a year.Those who used to be in charge have moved on to other projects (such as the Peace Corps), and I have h…

Community Partner Spotlight: Boy Scouts

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by Kirsten Hope



I visited the boy scouts in Urbana today, which was probably my last community visit.  Our student, Kirby Johnson, works with Gino Corrales in leading the boy scouts.  True to my other experiences in the community, I arrived at the boy scout meeting thinking I knew what was coming, and was again totally surprised and blown away.  I've had some experience with the boy scouts since my brother was a boy scout when we were younger, and my sister and I were often brought along to race-car derbys, pack meetings and even boy scout camp.  When I thought about going to visit the boy scouts today, I imagined the crafts and other pack activities that characterized my experiences in the past.  However, when I got there, Gino, Kirby and about 6-7 boys of varying ages were just setting up for a soccer game! I wish I had known, because I definitely would have brought my running shoes! The boys really liked playing, or so it seemed, and got really into the game.  I was a little rel…

Student Reflection

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by Lara Sanoica
When I first offered to make phone calls to Spanish-speaking sustainable organizations in Costa Rica, other members of Nuestra Voz warned me that the Costa Rican accent was pretty difficult to understand.“And they’re very formal down there.Get used to using the ‘usted’ form!”So, I prepared for the worst when I made my first phone call that routed to a Costa Rican cell phone.The Spanish-speaking director on the other end was very accommodating, very clear, articulate and spoke at a gentle pace.I felt like I was talking with a language simulator where every word is pronounced in full and, if on the rare occasion I missed part of a phrase, I could politely ask for it to be repeated.Sometimes I got really lucky and the person on the other line actually spoke English, but even then we could continue on in Spanish with very few problems.
I suppose the overall ease of these conversations can be attributed to two major factors.The first is that I made a generic script with relev…