By Katie Burke
There’s a new face at the Irish International Immigrant Center. AmeriCorps volunteer Chris Tegmo came on board recently and has been hard at work learning about IIIC’s mission, and the diverse needs of our clients. The newest team member has hit the ground running and stands to make an important and much appreciated contribution to the center’s work.
Chris came to the IIIC through AmeriCorps, or more specifically through its New American Integration Program (NAIP). This initiative aims to help address the needs and concerns of Boston’s immigrant and refugee populations. Program participants are assigned to a ten-month placement within a local community-based refugee and immigrant assistance organization. All those who successfully complete the AmeriCorps program receive an educational funding award which may be put towards college costs and repaying student loans. In addition, many members receive a small subsistence stipend and basic health coverage while taking part in their service program.
Before they even take up their assignment, however, members undergo intensive training in delivering civic education and citizenship courses, linking immigrants and refugees to existing community resources and teaching English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL). Asked why he chose to volunteer and to spend time in the non-profit sector, Chris tells me that the answer is simple: “It’s good work…I enjoy helping people if I can.”
Indeed, given his personal background, it’s no surprise that Chris has been drawn to working with an organization like the Irish International Immigrant Center. His mother works for the United Nations and he has lived all over world including in India, Nepal, and Switzerland. Chris moved to Boston from the Netherlands 18 months ago and despite his working 40 hours each week at the IIIC, is currently taking coursework towards a degree in International Relations. “I feel comfortable in a multicultural environment,” he says. “It’s fascinating to meet people from all over the world.”
During his time at the IIIC, Chris will be working with clients in order to enhance their skill sets and help them achieve their educational and US citizenship goals. He will be signing students for the IIIC citizenship classes, supporting immigrants as they learn basic computer skills in our new computer lab, and helping teach ESOL. One of the things which has already earned him praise is his willingness to pitch in wherever needed, so you might even catch him at the reception desk welcoming new visitors. We appreciate Chris’s enthusiasm and feel very grateful to have him with us this year.
If you are interested in volunteer opportunities at the IIIC, please contact Ally Tzovaras at email@example.com or 617-542-7654, ext. 43. For more information on the NAIP and other AmeriCorps programs, visit www.americorps.gov.