TPC Volunteer Day at Refugee & Immigrant Assistance Center

Summary provided by Volunteer, Katie Sutton

On a gray January morning, a small group of TPC members met at the Roxbury headquarters of TPC grantee Refugee and Immigrant Assistance Center (RIAC). RIAC is a grassroots community-based non-profit human service agency that provides comprehensive services to refugees, asylees, and immigrants, including resettlement, case management, counseling, outreach/education, and other social services.

Our task was to walk clients through the various paperwork necessary in order for them to receive the help they need. We were greeted warmly by Director of Social Services, Naima Agalab, and her assistant Gabrielle Short, who gave us a brief overview of the process before dividing us up and settling us into our work stations where we prepared to meet with the clients arriving that morning.

The people we met ranged from an older disabled man to a family of 11, all of whom were coming for assistance with the paperwork required to obtain US citizenship, either for themselves or family members. I helped a mother of nine from Somalia who spoke perfect English and was getting the paperwork in order for five of her nine children to become citizens. Amina had come to the US in 2010 and she and her husband had received citizenship due to their refugee status. Amina deftly and patiently juggled my questions, her nursing infant, an active toddler, and even provided intermittent translation assistance for the gentlemen being helped by another TPC volunteer at an adjacent station.

At lunchtime, our team was treated to a special surprise – a nearby Somali/Halal restaurant, Ashur, had heard we were coming and sent lunch over for us! It was incredibly flavorful and far more interesting than the granola bar I’d thrown in my bag on the way out the door that morning. So, if you’re in the neighborhood – it’s very near the Reggie Lewis Center if anyone has a track star in the family – I recommend you give it a try.

Naima and her colleagues were very grateful for our help. Gabrielle shared that although they receive many monetary grants, RIAC’s relationship with TPC is unique because of the personal involvement of the liaisons, Ellen Giannuzzi and Ellen Seidensticker; access to our members; and, now, hands-on help from volunteers.