Since January 2022, NAAM has been able to assist over 300 individuals and families evacuated from Afghanistan, 100+ individuals and families arrived from Haiti, and 150+ individuals and families fleeing from the war in Ukraine. Under the lead of cultural brokers and language facilitators who help to provide services in the most appropriate cultural manner, our staff members have been working diligently to help families meet their needs for health care and health coverage, school and childcare enrollments, access to services and benefits, housing, jobs, trainings, and ensuring that the most essential needs for food and clothing are met for everyone served by the organization. Our capacity to serve newly arrived people has grown significantly during the last year thanks to our generous funder and long-term partner and friend, MA Office for Refugees and Immigrants!
Below are stories and photos from our team. Please refer to Executive Director Natasha Soolkin’s 2022 Letter for further updates about our organization. It is posted under the ‘News and Events’ tab of our website.
Employment & Case Management
This summer, the ESSP program assisted Afghan families find employment. August 2022 was the one-year anniversary of US withdrawal from Afghanistan, meaning most of our Afghan clients have now been in the US for nearly a year. The attached photo is 3 Afghan clients and our wonderful Afghan case manager applying for jobs at local food manufacturing plants. Seven out of our eight male Afghan clients are currently working. Two Afghan women gave birth this summer, so our Afghan community continues to grow!
We are serving more and more Ukrainian families. We found a bike for a 6-year-old Ukrainian boy, in the colors of his country’s flag. The parents have begun receiving work authorization, so we are working hard to place them in jobs.
The ESSP program sponsored a handful of clients to obtain their drivers licenses, and now multiple clients have obtained cars and driving to work!
Employment & Case Management
Vilymar Fuentes, a female client from Puerto Rico, was actively looking for jobs last fall. She had been studying in NAAM’s English classes and felt confident enough to return to the workforce after the pandemic caused her to shut down her private nail salon. With NAAM’s assistance she applied to such employers as Walmart and Family Dollar. She had worked at Family Dollar in the past as a Customer Service Representative and re-applied for the same role. After submitting her application, she went to the store in-person to inform the manager that she had applied. When she arrived, the manager was so impressed with how much her English had improved that he offered her an assistant manager position on the spot. She accepted the position on the condition that she could work hours that accommodated her family of four children.
After working in the role for a couple of weeks, it became apparent that the role demanded more hours than she had agreed to, as she had stated upfront. She therefore decided that she wanted to resume her dream being her own boss and running her nail business. She rented a space in Lynn and built her social media presence. Her entrepreneurial efforts are paying off – she is now the owner and nail technician for Sensation Nails. Vilymar is extremely happy to be doing what she loves, and to be able to use her artistic talents and business savvy to provide for her family.
NAAM’s citizenship program has been up and running this summer. The new virtual citizenship classes started at the end of August, with 32 new students starting in this cycle. As our remote services keep expanding to all states in the U.S., we have been able to file applications for clients in Mississippi, New Hampshire, New York, Florida, and North Carolina. We are also thrilled to announce that 46 clients took their oath and became U.S. citizens this summer!
We are still hosting consultation meetings remotely, and in person by appointment only. If you or anyone that you know needs free citizenship classes, or free citizenship application help, please contact Will Pena at 781-593-0100 ext. 714, or Matthew Alaniz at ext. 712
HRIA COVID-19 Grant
In collaboration with HRIA (Health Resources in Action), NAAM has continued to provide relief and support to its clients amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Through careful planning and consideration, NAAM has developed, organized, and started three Virtual Emotional Wellness Groups. Participants are meeting once a week in a group setting with a licensed clinical social worker to further build community while also reflect and heal from the past two years of hardship of the pandemic. NAAM plans to continue to provide services to promote behavioral health for its clients.
The Cummings Foundation Grant
This summer, we had the absolute privilege of receiving a $100,000 grant from The Cummings Foundation, a philanthropic initiative supporting Middlesex, Essex and Suffolk counties of Massachusetts. We are so grateful for this funding, with which we were able to hire a new Case Manager, Paola Colunga, who is supporting Spanish-speaking immigrants in the Greater Lynn area.
As a result of this support from The Cummings Foundation and the personalized service received from our new Case Manager, more immigrants residing on the North Shore, specifically in Lynn and Lowell, will be able to become self-sufficient with the tools and resources they need to advocate for themselves.
I am so proud of our LPS 1 morning class. This is a group of mothers who are home with young children and who do their best to engage in class while the little ones nap or are otherwise occupied with other family members. We have explored some fairly sophisticated grammar points (such as the difference between modal and other auxiliary verbs) along with having important conversations about fairness at work and our hopes and dreams for our children’s education. We also discussed ways we can support our children’s education by familiarizing ourselves with the language functions tested on ACCESS and MCAS in the local public schools. The highlight of the season was meeting many of my and Suzie’s students in person with Paola and Matthew to share coffee and treats and pose for a photo thanking the Cummings Group for their grant.
During the summer months, we welcomed a number of Ukrainian students to our class and enjoyed getting to know them. One student also welcomed a new baby to his family. In class, we focused on describing personality traits as well as personal qualities that enable us to be successful at work and in life.
Several students were away for part of the summer, so we did a lot of review of Chapters 1-7 in our low intermediate book, Life Goes On. We went over much of the vocabulary and practiced using past tense verbs, both regular and irregular, in conversation and in writing. Now that everyone is back we have moved forward with chapters 8 and 9.
I substituted for Gina when she was away for two weeks in July and absolutely loved all of the students. It was my first Zoom experience, I’m old school and had been using Skype! This fall, I am taking over Dan’s class. I am also starting a pilot program with the Afghan Community in Newburyport and Lynn with a focus on helping women create a small, in-home business to contribute to their families’ income. We will be focusing on micro-business skills, ESL, and hands-on craft skills.
The evening ESL class is definitely growing. There are now 11 students on the roster (up from only a few a couple months ago). We continue to meet Monday and Thursday nights from 8-9:30.
English Language Training for Integration (ELT-I)
In the Art Classes, we have been focusing on museums as an educational, cultural and social resource for the entire family. We’ve looked at vocabulary pertaining to museums, types of museums and have looked at some websites of local museums on the North Shore and Boston area. Students have also been encouraged to join their local public libraries as an additional educational resource, as well as an opportunity to get discounts on museum visits through the museum pass programs at public libraries.
We have also focused on the genre of Contemporary Art, what it means and have been looking at the paintings of a few contemporary figurative artists. Observing and discussing paintings of people has given us the opportunity to apply many aspects of language such as pronouns, actions, physical attributes such as hair color, articles of clothing, accessories, as well as vocabulary pertaining to setting.
ELT-I Life Skills
The Life Skills class has been “all about numbers,” namely cardinal numbers, ordinal numbers, how to identify and pronounce them, and applying them in the many everyday situations. We’ve been working on counting by 5s and 10s, telling time, reading dates, and are now in the middle of a unit on U.S. currency and financial literacy.
The Music class has offered students the opportunity to work on a number of language components within the context of uplifting and relevant songs and lyrics. A few highlights of the class have been learning about adjectives through Louis Armstrong’s What A Wonderful World, metaphors through Johnny Nash’s I Can See Clearly Now, “-ing” endings through Dancing In The Streets by Martha and the Vandelles and rhyming words through Nina Simone’s version of Feeling Good. All of the songs we explore also give the students insight into events in history and the role that music has played within the narrative of U.S. history.
This summer, NAAM welcomed 80+ students from 24 different countries to its Youth Program. These students were aged 5-18 and met at the Lynn Vocational Technical Institute. The elementary schoolers participated in academic classes (reading, writing, math) as well as enrichment and outdoor activities, including art, science, skating,
music, gardening, nutrition, and field games. The middle and high schoolers participated in similar activities but were provided with less structure so that they could choose their favorite activities to participate in. We also went on six field trips this summer, including Canobie Lake Park, Connors Farm, Spectacle Island, and Discovery Museum.
Our after school Youth Program is back! There are several opportunities for volunteers to get involved. Please reach out to Sophie Bardetti at email@example.com with any questions or to express interest!
• Youth Programming for elementary schoolers will be held Monday-Thursday from 3-5 pm at our office in Lynn. There will be snacks and fun activities such as arts and crafts, games, and science projects. Experience with children and/or ability to speak Ukrainian, Russian, Dari, or Pashto is preferred.
• During that same time, (Monday-Thursday 3-5 pm) there will be homework help and tutoring for middle and high schoolers via Zoom. Experience teaching/tutoring and/or working with English-learners is preferred.
• Mondays and Tuesdays 5:30-7:30 pm we will have support groups and college/adult life prep for high schoolers at the office in Lynn. Experience working with youth/young adults is preferred.
• We also have a one-on-one mentoring program in which high school students meet with a mentor in a field of their interest weekly or bi-weekly (at a time of your choice) via Zoom.
ESL and Citizenship
• Our classes have grown tremendously in the last year, and we welcome volunteers to assist with classes or provide one-on-one tutoring (either in-person or remotely). We offer morning, afternoon, and evening classes. One-on-one tutoring can be arranged to accommodate both volunteers’ and clients’ schedules.
Phone – (781) 593-0100 Facebook – facebook.com/NAAMASS/
Extensions and Work Numbers
Natasha Soolkin x718 Olga Ladokha (781) 309-7164
Alexa Arena x717 Paola Colunga x732
Ally Croteau (781) 309-7173 Richard Valentine x716
Amanda Sullivan (978) 616-7226 Sophie Bardetti x733
Emilie Wilk x716 Venette Jean x723
Katerin Roman (857) 285-4185 William Peña x713
Lynne Havusha x722 Winfred Anyangu (978) 616-7226
Matthew Alaniz x712 Zabihullah Moshfiq (978) 616-7226