|Picture is from sasaki.com|
by Kelly Klus
As many of my friends and I have been thrown into the reality of graduation, I’ve had several reflective conversations about the Champaign-Urbana community. C-U has an unbelievable amount of resources and opportunities, of nooks and crannies that are impossible to explore within four years. The campus community has so much to offer in the form of RSOs, clubs, fascinating research, professionals and experts in any given field; the surrounding community has even more to add.
ECIRMAC and SOAR were two of these niches that I feel very fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore some of the great diversity CU has to offer- especially grateful that these two organizations allowed me to explore diversity that was not centered in the University experience. According to ECIRMAC’s website, 24.3% of Urbana’s residents speak a language other than English at home, more than the reported 20.1% nationwide. Getting to interact with a portion of this community was inspiring and I know I will continue to seek similar opportunities throughout the rest of my life. I met so many hardworking people--the women that keep ECIRMAC functioning everyday are tireless, the students that volunteer are integral, and the people that come in to seek support are determined, their stories moving.
I’ve spent the past few days at home in the suburbs, and as I was thinking about this last blog post I thought about looking at what resources were available to immigrants and refugees in the community in which I grew up. My preconception was that Naperville’s and the surrounding communities’ diversity is so incomparable to the CU community that I wasn’t expecting to find many services/support/resources for refugees here. I pretty immediately stumbled upon a World Relief branch in DuPage/Aurora (http://worldreliefdupage.org/). The office offers very similar services to ECIRMAC—legal and community advocacy, citizenship applications, translation of documents, ESL courses. Like ECIRMAC, World Relief seems to be a center that is capable and willing to offer a broad spectrum of services. World Relief has an explicit religious component to their organization-- which differs from ECIRMAC.
This summer I hope to continue to volunteer at ECIRMAC while I’m in Champaign. I think an interesting project would be to inquire into similar organizations within different communities—like World Relief DuPage— to see how their day-to-day activities, services and programs operate. Opening lines of communication between similar organizations could be mutually beneficial for the organizations and would offer opportunity to recognize opportunities for improvement or change as well as share knowledge and resources.