Subject: Solidarity and success in the spring sunshine

Dear Friends, 

While anti-immigrant policies continue to abound (Supreme Court hearing on Travel Ban, end to Temporary Protected Status for Nepal, proposed citizenship question on the census, and locally: the Governor’s anti-immigrant proposals, State House Democrats and the Speaker refusing to pass the Safe Communities Act), there has also been positive movement for immigrant families. One example includes recent judiciary decisions on DACA

These advancements have not come without the hard work of so many leaders and community organizers who have advocated on behalf of immigrant families. John Lewis once said: "speak up, speak out and get into good trouble." This is what we strive to do during these turbulent times here at the IIIC, and what we encourage our friends, supporters, and partners to do on behalf of immigrant families.

At our Welcome Center, we are encouraged by the recent positive outcomes for our clients who have been waiting many months to hear back from the government on their applications. For example, this week we have received approvals on Violence Against Women Act self-petitions, which allow someone who is married to an abusive US citizen to apply for a green card, independent of their abuser, and move out of undocumented status. We have similarly seen approvals for DACA status renewals for eligible "dreamers". For these families, moving forward on the pathway towards legal residency provides life-changing stability; they are now able to plan ahead for their future, and can continue to build a secure life in Greater Boston. We are delighted to see so many people become US citizens with our assistance.

Another tremendous success falls within our Education Services. Our enrollment for ESOL summer classes is filling up fast, with fantastic and innovative courses you will read more about below. It is wonderful to see immigrants fully embrace their new language, and community!

Keep an eye out for more information in the weeks to come about our participation with Boston Pride Festival as we unite with other Irish organizations to march under one banner: Irish For Pride. We will be celebrating our signature cross cultural event shortly after the parade, this year entitled: Black, Green, and the Rainbow. We will celebrate Haitian Heritage Month in May, and will also partake in the Coalition of Irish Immigration Center's Annual General Meeting in DC in just a few weeks.

Onwards, in solidarity and in spring sunshine…

Ronnie
Give to the IIIC this spring and double your impact! 

Just a reminder that it’s not too late to support immigrant and refugee families with a gift to the IIIC’s Spring Appeal. When you make a donation now, it will be matched by one of our generous donors! 

Your gift will help families from across the globe gain stability, become empowered and access the tools they need to find success in their new homes. Please consider making a gift today, by clicking HERE or by sending a check to our center at One State Street, Boston, MA 02109.

Thank you to all of you who have already contributed so generously to the spring appeal this month. We are proud to have you standing with us in the fight to defend and protect immigrants in Boston.


Education Services Launches Creative Summer Courses
This summer, IIIC’s Education Services team invites students to soak up the warm weather and all the city has to offer through two new exciting courses: ESOL and the Boston Great Outdoors and ESOL Creative Writing. These innovative courses will provide students with the opportunity to expand their horizons, in and out of the classroom, and to practice their English language ability with classmates between official ESOL courses.

ESOL and the Boston Great Outdoors will take students on excursions across the city, allowing them to explore Boston’s green spaces and famous landmarks while learning about our city’s history, culture, and practicing their English language ability. This course will demonstrate our unique history he
re in Boston, and introduce students to lesser traveled areas of the city. Our Director of Education Services Bonnie Greenwood says, “we want to show our students that Boston isn’t just a city with skyscrapers and old buildings - it’s a city full of greenways and historic waterfronts, with an array of fauna and wildlife - all within walking distance of our center!”

Our second summer course, ESOL Creative Writing, will allow students to explore creative writing techniques in a variety of styles, including poetry and short stories. Students will utilize their newly acquired English language writing skills while tapping into their own creative vision. An added bonus: creative writing will take place both in the classroom and, weather permitting, outdoors! 

After the long, chilly winter we have had, we are excited to provide opportunities for students to enjoy the beautiful weather as much as possible!

IIIC Welcomes Ulster University Students to "Experience Boston"
The IIIC recently hosted 12 first-year students from Ulster University for the inaugural “Experience Boston” global immersion opportunity. The nine day program was developed in partnership with Ulster University, and featured a number of educational, professional development, and cultural activities for students to expand their global view.

Ann-Marie Byrne of the IIIC played a critical role in coordinating the trip, and tells us that "it was exciting to partner with Ulster University for the first time to facilitate the Experience Boston Program. The students were amazing and really took advantage of the opportunity and engaged in all the activities.”

Students met with a number of business organizations, including Arbella Insurance Group, Liberty Mutual Insurance Company, Norbella Media, and Faithful + Gould Engineering. Key facets of the program were for students to practice their networking skills, to develop professional contacts, and to understand the role of philanthropy in business. Student, Rebecca Ouldfield, says Experience Boston has given her “the confidence and push to go for what I want in life.”

A trip to Boston would not be complete without a visit to some of our world-renowned academic institutions! Students enjoyed tours of Northeastern University and Boston College, and also took in a number of local landmarks,including the Edward M. Kennedy Institute, the Massachusetts State House, and City Hall. One student referred to Boston as a “vibrant, inspiring and fun city and is especially welcoming to the Irish community.”

We extend a sincere and heartfelt THANK YOU to all of the remarkable leaders and organizations who made this brilliant trip possible. 

Matters of Substance: The Power of Stigma
May 13-19 is National Substance Abuse Prevention and Mental Health awareness week, and as we support those in our community who are struggling with a life event, a mental health need, suicidal thoughts, or recovery from a substance use disorder, we want to chat a bit about “stigma”, the big barrier to those seeking help on these fronts.

Everyone has mental health, but not everyone has a mental illness. We all experience stress, highs and lows, and we have our own fears, but when these start to interfere with our daily functioning, it may let us know that something more significant is going on. One reason that emotional struggles and substance use disorders are so hushed is stigma: all the negative stereotypes and beliefs society has about a certain group that influences how we feel or act around someone, how we feel about ourselves.

If you’ve ever pretended everything was “okay” when you were actually down on yourself and didn’t want to bother someone else, or did not tell your doctor about a behavior that worries you because they might start treating you differently, that’s the power of stigma at work. Stigmatized groups are viewed as flawed or defective, weak and problematic. To avoid these negative labels and perceptions, many of us will downplay our human needs or concerns about ourselves.

We take in stigma over the course of our lives, from a very early stage and we internalize this. As a result, we may believe ourselves to be fundamentally bad and undeserving, and are fearful of reaching out for help due to social consequences. On average, it takes people 8-10 years to access mental health services after the onset of symptoms.

We can lessen the effects of stigma on ourselves and others through empathy, education, and talking about mental health and struggles with substance use. To reduce self-stigma, we can treat ourselves with the kindness and compassion that we would a good friend going through a hard time. Fear often comes from the unknown. Conversations about mental health can humanize and normalize what goes on in our heads. The more we keep our needs and our stories secret, the more fertile the ground is for stigma and shame to grow. Practice being comfortable with sharing if you’ve had a particularly hard and stressful day, just as you would if you had an especially pleasant one.

At Wellness Services at the IIIC, we see the power such conversations have in people’s lives every week. It’s a relief to say out loud what we carry inside. “Going it alone” can be exhausting. Asking for help disempowers stigma. As always, feel free to be in touch with us for help with any mental health and substance use challenges you, or a family member, may be facing. We’re happy to hear from you.

Authored by: Rachel Reisman, LICSW & Catherine Ahern, MSW candidate.

617-542-7654 ext 14, rreisman@iiicenter.org
Congratulations to Eoin Reilly, IIIC Board Member!

We are delighted to celebrate Eoin as he receives the Irish Echo Community Champion Award this evening in New York City. An expert immigration attorney, Eoin helped start the IIIC 29 years ago by volunteering his time and providing free immigration legal services. He has been a dedicated leader of our organization ever since, and continues to contribute his expertise at our weekly legal clinics! Thank you, Eoin, for all that you do for the immigrant and refugee community - you are certainly a "champion" here in Boston! 
IIIC Walking Alongside Solace House for Suicide Awareness
On May 19th at 4am, the IIIC will join the Solas Sunrise Walk to help raise awareness about suicide prevention in the Boston area. Our Wellness team provides services to those experiencing thoughts of self harm and depression and supports Solace House in its efforts to raise awareness and defeat the stigma of suicide. Please join in! Register directly with Solace here

If you’d like to meet up with the IIIC group that morning, contact skelly@iiicenter.org

If you are experiencing depression, thoughts of self-harm or struggle with substance abuse, we are here. Feel free to reach out to Rachel Reisman, LICSW (rreisman@iiicenter.org, 617-542-7654 ext 14)

Like our Facebook page for Wellness info and community events. 
Volunteer Spotlight: Sirra Nehiley-Kessel
Sirra joined the IIIC in the late summer of 2017. Since then, Sirra has been an integral member of our communications and development team, drafting all of our digital outreach, designing beautiful marketing and event materials, coordinating our social media campaigns, and managing communications projects alongside staff and volunteers. This “behind-the-scenes” work is critical to our success as an organization, particularly in broadcasting our services to all of our partners and to the community.

Sirra’s favorite part of working at the IIIC is the great environment. She says, “I really did not expect everyone here to be so passionate and dedicated to their work. Being surrounded by such positive individuals really does make it easier to get things done - and everyone here is always willing to help out.” Sirra believes that she has learned a great deal about Greater Boston’s immigrant community over the course of the last 9 months. She says, "I so often read stories [about those we serve] that are truly inspiring.”

Sirra says that she has “learned so much through this internship”, from critical information about the struggles immigrants face in our current political climate to hands-on skills with InDesign and social media strategy. After she completes her time at the IIIC and graduates from Suffolk University, Sirra hopes to find a job in communications or public relations in Boston. In the meantime, she is planning to take a trip this summer to somewhere she has never been - the West Coast!

For those interested in volunteering, Sirra shares, “everyone should volunteer at some point, especially at the IIIC! It’s such a rewarding experience, and you will meet great people along the way. There is so much to learn and not only that, but you are really making a difference.”

We are so grateful to Sirra for spending her senior year at the IIIC. With Sirra’s creative hand and guidance, we have been able to step up our communication and marketing efforts, and have defined strategies for future growth!  

Sirra - words can’t describe how much the Communications team appreciates all of your hard work and dedication. You are an absolute pleasure to work with, and you’ve taught us just as much as you’ve learned! We will miss you when you leave at the end of May, and best of luck in your career search!
The Irish International Immigrant Center empowers more than 3,500 immigrants and refugees annually, from over 120 different countries, by providing the legal, wellness, and education support they need to build successful lives. Building on our Irish roots of welcoming others and social justice, we help newcomers find community and we are committed to standing up for immigration policies that are humane and just. America is a nation of immigrants, and despite the current political climate, we are proud to continue the tradition of welcoming immigrants to this country and working together to create a better future for all. 

Please support our work by making a donation.

The IIIC is a 501(c)(3) non-profit. All donations are tax-deductible.
www.iiicenter.org | 617.542.7654
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