Grant Spotlights: Immigrant & Refugee Women's Program

Sister Janet Kuciejczyk tutors a woman through the IRWP.

Each year, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet award funds to organizations and projects that serve the economically poor in the St. Louis area through the Tabitha Grants program.  The program has supported many local organizations that are acquainted with a CSJ sister or associate and consistent with CSJ values.

In this grant spotlight, we feature The Immigrant & Refugee Women's Program, a 2017 recipient of a Tabitha Grant, funding helpful programs for immigrants and refugees seeking assistance in transition to the United States. 

By Abby Blaes, Communications intern

The Immigrant & Refugee Women’s Program’s goal is “to increase the independence and reduce the isolation of immigrant and refugee women by teaching them basic English and practical living skills in the security of their own homes.”  IRWP received a Tabitha Grant in 2017.  Pat Joshu, executive director for IRWP, answered some questions about this organization and how the grant money is being used.

Q: How have the funds received from the Tabitha Grant helped to better your organization?

PJ: Funding from the Tabitha Grant is always appreciated as it allows us to use funds for some essential things like phone, internet, copier, and rent that other funders do not support.  Without these we would not be able to communicate with students and volunteers, provide lesson plans or have a suitable place for trainings.  Every summer we try to take advantage of back to school sales in hopes of having supplies until the following summer sales.  This year we have been matching so many new students and volunteers with 54 new students since our funding was received.  The timing of Tabitha funding helped us purchase an unbelievable amount of supplies. We also needed to purchase more books from our curriculum.  As our current students advance or need anything else, we are ready to help.

Q: How do you feel the sisters have helped your organization/group, apart from the grant money?

PJ: Three sisters (Sister Janet Kuciejczyk, Sister Jane Schaper and Sister Jean Selissen) are now teaching and their students are from Sierra Leone, Turkey, and Mexico. A big part of the help is being able to spread the word in the community.  It enables us to recruit new volunteers and identify isolated individuals in need of English education.  We personally find the sisters a strong inspiration to us.  We all have those moments of being overwhelmed, especially in times like these.  Receiving 172 new referrals for a teacher since January and speaking to many people about volunteering is a great thing, but some days seem a great deal to juggle.  It is usually those times when a sister will come by or call and share something about their student or class.  It is so calming and automatically puts us in a good place.  Throughout the years, IRWP has faced many challenges as have other organizations.  With each challenge, it seems the right person, connection, or resources just happen at the time it is really needed.  I believe that we have so many that believe in our ministry and keep us in their prayers these challenges are overcome in the way they should.  We are sincerely grateful that even though our staff is small, there is a community that is in this with us.

Q: What are this organization’s unique mission?  What is the world problem this organization intends to tackle?

PJ: Our unique mission is to serve isolated immigrants and refugees who face barriers to getting out of the home to learn English, attend classes, and become active in their community.  There are few other opportunities for the individuals we serve to gain access to education and work towards their goals in their homes.  This is the niche we seek to fill.  Besides going into the home, the one-on-one nature of the program allows us to help students tackle their individual needs and aspirations, which is important given the great diversity in background education, potential trauma issues, linguistics of native languages, economic situation and family priorities of this population.  The world problem we help address is helping refugees that have resettled to really settle and succeed in their new homes, and become independent, happy and productive here in the long-term.

Q: What effect has this organization had on the community?  What are the outcomes you have observed?

PJ: Where immigrants and refugees are given the chance to resettle in a real sense, the community will be benefited from their presence.  Cultural diversity will increase, and connections between native-born citizens and those new to our country will be made to foster new relationships.  The children of these families will be able to take advantage of opportunities for education and their parents can gain the skills to be involved in that process.  We have seen that the individuals in our program are happier themselves, gain more self-confidence, and work towards real goals of employment, citizenship, and involvement with others in the community. 

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