IRA Refers Newcomers to Needed Resources

Published by Program Manager on

IRA Refers Newcomers to Needed Resources

Moving to a new city is one of the most difficult things you can do, especially when you are on your own. Not knowing where the nearest grocery store is, having no clue where each public bus leads, not knowing where to get reliable health care, the list of challenges goes on and on. Now imagine moving to a new city in an entirely different country; one where the only language you speak is not a common one and where people who talk and look like you regularly encounter discrimination. That is the challenge that two Afghani women faced as they arrived in the United States in August of 2021.

From New Jersey to Texas, their transition was long and difficult, but these two women pushed forward and were eventually able to settle in the Bryan/College Station area, where they also found part-time work. While they were transiting through Houston, they were referred to BIIN’s Information/ Referrals/Assistance (IRA) clinics.  So one Saturday, they took an Uber to the BIIN office and were welcomed by IRA volunteer Mark Lacey.

Karena Altamirano and Mark Lacey are among the corps of trained bilingual volunteers who meet with neighbors in need at BIIN’s weekly IRA walk-in clinics.

The primary purpose for the two women’s visit was to seek help in applying for asylum in the United States.  In this regard, Mr. Lacey referred them to Catholic Charities, a local organization that has the staff and resources to help people apply for asylum. These new neighbors also asked about where they might find English classes and programs to learn to drive and obtain a driver’s license – vital services that could help them further integrate into American society.  Volunteer Lacey shared with them information about the English classes that are offered at BIIN’s office this summer, every Wednesday evening from 6:00PM-7:30PM, and explained how they could sign up.

At BIIN, our mission is to assist immigrants in our community with any information or resources that we have available, regardless of the time it takes, and to refer them to other community services as needed. As Ann Landers once said, “People who care about each other enjoy doing things for one another. They don’t consider it servitude.”

Thanks to summer 2022 IRA intern Gaille Montelongo for writing this piece, and to volunteer Mark Lacey for his on-going work with the IRA program.