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article imageOp-Ed: New Americans Center at YMCA is a place of hope for a better life Special

By Jonathan Farrell     May 3, 2017 in Lifestyle
New York - With all the upset lately regarding the current Presidential Administration over immigration and the treatment of migrant and undocumented workers, The New Americans Center at the YMCA of Greater New York helps immigrants aim to a better life.
This reporter had the opportunity to reach out to Rachael Rinaldo, Program Coordinator at The New Americans Center. She took the time to answer questions and talk about the important work she does.
What has been the most rewarding aspect to your job at the New Americans Center? "The most rewarding part of my job," she said, "is witnessing change, growth and profound impact. One person at a time, one community at a time, our participants learn to strive, not just survive."
"I have been privileged to celebrate hundreds of individuals become US citizens," she said, "assist and witness family reunifications and to raise their voice and stand alongside many who otherwise would be silent."
"Over the past nine years, said Rinaldo, I have made new friends, been 'adopted' into many families and have been honored to be part of weddings, births, funerals and milestone celebrations. As a part of the New Americans Initiative, I am honored to work alongside a group of committed, dedicated, diverse individuals whose hearts are in the right place. The depth and breadth of the impact we see is insurmountable to most; but to us, it’s our passion and no obstacle is too big to cross. I see my job as a gift from which I get a dose of gratitude daily."
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Courtesy of YMCA of Greater NY
hen I asked her about the obvious. Has the change in administration in Washington made your job more challenging/difficult or has things stayed pretty much the same?
"The implications of the new administration has not made my job more challenging or difficult," said Rinaldo. "It changed our focus for the immediate future. As soon as the first Executive Order was signed, we put a plan in motion to address our communities’ needs. We chose, as an Initiative, to not be reactive to the situation but rather to be proactive. Being proactive meant putting our heads together... creating a Social Responsibility Plan and Toolkit and then becoming an advocate for our newcomer/immigrant communities. A significant piece of this plan is to partner with local officials and experts in the field who will give information to our communities that is valid, useful and prepares individuals to become advocates for themselves."
Recognizing that immigrants have been a major part of American growth and ingenuity since its inception as a nation, I asked. What things do all immigrants coming to the United States share in common?
"A dream! A dream for a better life, said Rinaldo, whether that means employment, business, education or safety."
I then asked. From your perspective what do you see is the most important thing that immigrant families treasure about coming to the USA? "In many conversations I had over the years, Rinaldo said, the common thread has been freedom."
 We have witnessed first hand how effective the YMCA NAI (The New Americans Center) sites and progra...
"We have witnessed first hand how effective the YMCA NAI (The New Americans Center) sites and programs have been on community members," said 'Get Empowered!' program director and co-founder, Emi Gittleman. Without a safe and welcoming place to go, many of the immigrant and refugee community members would have no alternative space to get vital support, educational resources and tools to become part of their new 'home' and community."
Courtesy of 'Get Empowered!'
Observing the profound impact the New Americans Center has had, 'Get Empowered!' Co-Founder and Co-Director Emi Gittleman commented. "We have witnessed first hand how effective the YMCA NAI (New Americans Welcome Center) sites and programs have been on community members. Without a safe and welcoming place to go, many of the immigrant and refugee community members would have no alternative space to get vital support, educational resources and tools to become part of their new 'home' and community."
"Our 'Get Empowered!' Team," she added, "has been able to work (and play) directly with over 1000 NAI children, families, staff members and community members. We have provided diversity and inclusion workshops."
Gittleman describes them as 'communities in unity' where interactive events, healing-arts education and activities can take place. "This was part of an outreach in which we facilitated a conference on Ellis Island," she said. The historical aspects of Ellis Island helped emphasize the meaningfulness of the outreach. Ellis Island is where over 12 million people immigrating to the United States entered the country. It's peak years of operation were from 1892 to 1954. For more than 50 years, Ellis Island was the main entry point of Immigration and was represented as such in the collective mindset of the day.
Today, immigration to the United States is much different. And, while there are some groups who want more reforms placed on current immigration polices, the effort and determination to come to the U.S. is still considerable. Individuals and families seeking asylum from poverty-stricken and war-torn nations face difficult hurdles. Gittleman understands this as she said.
"We are deeply committed to our on-going collaboration with the New American's Initiative (NAI) and are invested in expansions to help impact more and more deserving children and families nationally. Everyone deserves opportunities to feel safe, valued and a sense of freedom, she said, to give and receive positive contributions as an active member of their communities."
For more information about The New Americans Center for the New Americans Initiative of Greater New York, visit the web site.
And, to learn more about the impact 'Get Empowered!' is making in its work with the YMCA of Greater NY, visit this page at the 'Get Empowered!' web site.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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