Filling in the Gaps: The Rose Park Neighborhood Center
Activism, Outreach and Education
When obtaining an new job or home, how often do local Utahns think of those who don’t have the same access to these basic needs? The obstacles that immigrants and refugees continually face can be alleviated once the disconnect in resources is recognized. The Good Samaritan Foundation Utah identified these gaps in service and now opens neighborhood centers with flexible programs to address refugee and immigrant’s personal challenges.
Jim Woodward and Tom Lloyd founded the GSF in 2008 to ensure that all people had access to services, opportunities and resources. The GSF works with “local organizations, residents, providers, schools, church groups and others to understand the gaps in services within the community,” according to gsfutah.org. “Then, through partnerships, collaboration, and direct service, we fill those gaps.”
One way GSF fulfills their mission is through the Rose Park Neighborhood Center. The Center focuses on students and helps them voice their challenges, whereas many other organizations or governmental agencies decide what the community’s needs are from a distance. Danny Davenport is the director and Amy Wylie is the executive director at the Rose Park Neighborhood Center. Wise Ng, the English Skills Learning Program manager at the Center works with Alejandra Hernandez, the Center’s volunteer coordinator, to ensure that they have ample, dedicated volunteers to support and encourage individual students.
The GSF identifies the gaps in immigrant and refugee services and offers opportunities and resources.
The Rose Park Neighborhood Center offers both a space for refugees and immigrant voices to be heard and a flexible program to address personal and familial obstacles. “Our flexibility is what sets us apart because we are able to directly address [what lacks] through service,” Ng says. The center’s flexibility allows them to address often-overlooked deficiencies that drastically affect refugees and immigrant’s prosperity. “Each family has different needs and we try to fill those gaps right here,” says Ng.
Refugees and immigrants face myriad ongoing challenges, but there is a general lack of accessible English courses, skills for navigating culture shock and applicable everyday life skills. “As a private organization, whenever a specific need arises, we can jump right into it and help them,” Ng says. Fortunately, the Center has a lot of leeway in what services they can provide, allowing them to fulfill individual student needs in personalized ways. If a student needs help making an appointment, signing a loan, putting food on the table or whatever it may be, the Center’s community and support is there to help. “I love what I do because I get to know students on a deeper level and am able to help them with whatever they are going through,” says Hernandez.
On one hand, their mission remains ever-changing, since it is dependent on all of the unique student needs. On the other hand, an emphasis on fostering collective growth and self-sufficiency in Ng’s curriculum persists. “I aim for my students to become independent and lifelong learners. Our program offers students fundamental skills so that they have the tools to continue growing,” she says.
The Center holds a space that allows refugees, volunteers and immigrants to communicate, socialize and congruently progress as a community. “Here you are giving, you are taking, learning, growing—you are fulfilling something,” says Ng. “Everyone here gives and takes at the same time.” While programs at the Center focus on learning English, Ng and Hernandez, along with volunteers and students, give and receive to support each other’s and their own advancements.
“Our program offers students fundamental skills so that they have the tools to continue growing.”
In the face of uncertainty, the Center mediates and copes with federal and state budget cuts to ensure that all of their students have a safe place and resources to improve their lives. It’s our responsibility as community members to take care of each other in areas where our government falls short. “The government just can’t take care of everything. There are small areas that are for us as citizens to contribute to. This is the obligation of a citizen,” Ng says. The program’s potential for growth depends on volunteers who dedicate themselves to providing resources for immigrants’ and refugees otherwise-camouflaged obstacles. “We have amazing volunteers who are not just here for hours but are here because of a passion to work with refugees and immigrants,” says Hernandez.
The Rose Park Neighborhood Center epitomizes how we should listen, cooperate and satisfy the needs of all people in our communities. “I have the best team ever. This is how people should be helping each other and balancing ideas,” says Hernandez. Our agency to work for the collective good should not depend on or be stifled by politics, religion and the like. “Everyone belongs to a community. Let’s be a community for those who really need a community,” says Ng.
“It doesn’t matter if we spend extra hours or go the extra mile. Our participation in this community is something that we take and will stay with us forever,” Ng says. The Center maintains an environment that honors the significance of immigrant and refugee voices. We ought to follow in their footsteps to identify the needs and obstacles of all people by listening to the voices of all people in the first place. We can divide and conquer or we can unite and prosper.
If you are interested in learning how you can contribute to the Rose Park Neighborhood Center in service through volunteering, visit their website at gsfutah.org.