BACI hosted Service Project with Grinnell College

March 24, 2017 — A group of students from Grinnell College, Iowa successfully completed a Service Project with the Burmese American Community Institute (BACI) today.

A week long service project hosted at BACI encompassed helping area high school students linguistically and academically with college preparedness and for their future success, empowering new Americans with security in their rights and liberties through Citizenship instruction and naturalization assistance, and assisting newcomers to be self-sufficient allowing them to give back to their communities and to contribute to economic growth.

“It was a pleasure to have Grinnell students working alongside with our Team this week, as we continue assisting newcomers becoming self-sufficient economically, integrated, and for their long-term sustained development. We can easily see the impact they are bringing upon; this is an example of what is possible through collaborative partnership,” said Elaisa Vahnie, Executive Director of BACI.

The BACI program participating students capitalized on their Spring Break, worked in groups as well as in one-on-one sessions that included SAT preparation, discussions on higher education options, mentorships, and effective communication through resume building and essay writing.

The Grinnell College students also helped 21 members of the community complete status adjustments and U.S. citizenship applications. BACI programs not only provide civic and English instruction to community members to be ready to pass the Citizenship test and interview, but teaches and advocates for community members to aware of their rights and responsibilities of being US citizens and the importance of being active and engaged member of the community.

BACI also assists newcomers to be self-sufficient through organized job fairs, job placement, and technical assistance for start-up small business that allow them to give back to their communities and contribute to economic growth.

“I hope that our Upward College Program and Grinnell College students have mutually developed new perspective and enhanced their leadership skills through this engagement while many members of the community have benefited from the service delivered,’ said Lian Sang, programs director of BACI.

Grinnell College students come to the service trip as part of the Alt Break, a national movement to engage students in a variety of communities through service.

Below we have compiled together brief reflective note of each student from Grinnell College

“We only did the service for a week, we have a lot of respect and admiration for the work BACI is doing. Many of us are trying to go into NGO or non-profit work, you give the students so much leadership, that’s where they really shine and can give back to the community. Today they were helping adults they were thankful.” – Sydney Tardrew

“I applied to this trip because I had previously worked with Liberty North Korea, and organization that assists North Korean refugees, it is similar in that there are a lot of hardships, not the same struggles… I was inspired by the students, they are very mature, and motivated. I would like to work in a non-profit at some point, you all put in so much effort and are exhausted, but admire you all for that. – Jun Taek

“I learned a lot about the Burmese immigrants and process, this organization does a good job to bring the communities together.” – Viet Dang.

Grinnell students posed group photo as they successfully completed a week long Service Project

“My motivation to attend this trip was service, but I unexpectedly learned a lot. Kids are trying to go to college, but adults lack basic language skills. Amazing to see other refugees helping others, helping each other to be successful.” – Kosuke Yo

“I have a lot of respect for all of you and the students who came to translate, they were trying their best and took time out of their Spring Break. I was frustrated about the job applications, like some asked “why are you seeking employment?” and they would respond, “because I need a job”… But I enjoyed this week and admire the work you are doing.” – Angelica Gil

“I know I made a good decision in connecting with BACI. It was great to work with a diverse group of students and adults, I can see that this work is important to the community and I thank other Grinnell students for their hard work as well.” – Moe Sabai, one of the two leaders of the service trip who is attending Grinnell College as an international student from Myanmar.

“I appreciate the entire program; different communities came in today. They were very friendly were saying “it’s okay” if I didn’t know how to communicate something. I appreciate that BACI creates this community for people. I noted this work is hard, but if students are in college, that can be a source of encouragement.” – Jinlin He, one of the two leaders of the service trip who is attending Grinnell College as an international student from China.

“In the past few days, we have been working with adults, seeing that the language barrier is much more difficult, part of their identity is lost, but great to see that they have these communities.” – Mira Berkson

“This experience changed my opinion and personal emotions on people coming to the US. I can see that in the long run, this will benefit Indianapolis, they can benefit themselves and their city, learning program for adults will benefit general Burmese population as well. The language barrier not really an issue for students, but for adults, many work in low paying jobs in warehouses, it would be beneficial to pick up basic communication skills. Finally, I want to say that this organization is amazing and does more than I expected.” – Yuejun Chen

“I have a lot of respect for this organization for all services, if BACI isn’t doing this work, those needs won’t get met. I can see that it is difficult to do these things on their own, but have resources to fall back on to guide them through complicated processes. I didn’t know a lot about Burma, but I learned a lot and am thankful for that. I would love to make this more than just one week of help, amazing students, so involved, it was interesting to go through the process of helping them and then see them help others.” –  Naomi Runder

Grinnell Service Team members, the BACI Upward College Program participating students, BACI Team. Also joined by BACI Board Member Dr. Bruce Ray.


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