school outreach in Humboldt park in Chicago

Volunteering in Humboldt park, Chicago – school outreach on housing issues

school outreach in Humboldt park in Chicago

school outreach in Humboldt park in Chicago

On Wednesday afternoon, October 23, we (two European fellows: Boba Baluchova from Slovakia and Lia Gaudi from Romania as CCH interns) decided to join three Community organizers from “Chicago coalition for the Homeless” (CCH) and leaders from organization “Casa Central – La Posada” in order to help them during school outreach in the area of Humboldt Park. It is one of the neighborhoods in Chicago – widely known for its large Puerto Rican presence. We were divided into groups of two – to be sure that at least one person in group is able to speak Spanish fluently.

The goal of this outreach was: contacting adults/parents in front of the Lowell elementary school (while waiting for their children coming out from school) and sharing particular information. We told them about special educational rights and school support  (according to U.S. law) for children from families – struggling with housing issues (homeless families, doubled-up families, moving families without regular place to stay etc.). These children should receive free transit cards, fee waivers for uniforms, field trips etc. in order: not to be discriminated or excluded.

CCH people, few leaders from Casa Central (mothers and women from this Latino community) and us (volunteers – European fellows) tried to raise awareness about educational rights and encourage people to ask for them. Many adults in front of the Lowell elementary school have known somebody else in neighborhood – experiencing homelessness or “doubled-up” life (sharing the house with another family), but they haven’t known about this possibility – to ask Homeless liaison (particular person in every single school – dealing with housing issues of students) for support for their children. It was very interesting practical activity in the field.

Text by Boba Baluchova

Seven European fellows at BBQ party together

On Saturday, first day of weekend (October 19), European fellows didn’t go to work to their host organizations. Instead they attended nice BBQ-party at house of Joanna Brown and Josh Hoyt house (Zsofi and Viktoria – Hungarian and Bulgarian fellows’ hosting family). Few weeks ago we already met Josh Hoyt (chief executive strategist at Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights: at training on community organizing in Chicago. So it was nice to meet him and his family again.

Some of fellows (Laura, Annamaria and Gabriela) also came there with their host “mothers” – very interesting and active ladies (involved into community work). Zsofi and Viktoria prepared few examples of very delicious Hungarian and Bulgarian food. Finally all seven girls from Romania (Lia, Laura), Bulgaria (Viktoria), Hungary (Annamaria, Zsofi) and Slovakia (Gabriela, Boba) were able to meet at the same place and share their experiences from their interesting internships. All European fellows (placed as interns in Chicago organizations) are looking forward to meet again next weekend…

Volunteering in Wichita, Kanzas

The European fellows Vladislav Petkov (Bulgaria), Robert Bekefi (Hungary) and Elena Carbunaru (Romania) volunteered in the logistical preparation of a fundraising event – Second Annual Art Auction. The event was organized in Anna Murdock’s café in Wichita, Kansas by The Seed House (Casa de la Semilla) and took place on October 12th 2013.

77 pieces of art donated by local and external artists were offered to the public on silent and live auction. The European fellows helped with moving furniture, arranging spaces, decoration and other logistical details.

Direct action of CCH advocates in front of Chicago mayor’s office

Over the past year and a half, housing and social service advocates in Chicago have worked quietly to tackle a controversial issue — easing CHA’s long-standing restrictions on residents with criminal records. They formed a Re-entry committee, drafted a pilot program and found a sympathetic ear at the very top of the Chicago Housing Authority (CHA) — Charles Woodyard, who just last month committed to keep meeting with them about the idea.
On October 17, the members of Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) decided to take a direct action and visit the Chicago Mayor’s office. European interns Lia Gaudi and Boba Baluchova joined the group of CCH advocates in order to deliver the letter to Rahm Emanuel’s office — to request a meeting about the proposed CHA Re-entry Pilot Project.

Pastor Charles Austin is one of the advocates with the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless (CCH) on the issue of CHA withholding housing from people re-entering from incarceration brought to light by CCH’s Reentry Committee. According to him: “After coming out from the County Jail people are suggested to rebuild their life. But it is very hard to rebuild the life without the foundation of a stable place to live. This Re-entry project can help convicted offenders find place to live more quickly.”
It was very interesting direct action. But also the debriefing led by the director of CCH was also very important in order to understand the process of thinking, planning and acting of community organizers. European fellows took photos and recorded the video of whole event.

European Fellows took part in “Take back Chicago”

On Tuesday evening European fellows took an action and joined almost 3 000 Chicagoans in the fight to take back the jobs, schools, housing and safety net. On October 15, Romanian fellow Lia Gaudi and Slovak fellow Boba Baluchova (the newest interns in ‘Chicago Coalition for the Homeless’: CCH) with 150 co-workers, organizers and leaders from CCH attended the event: “Take Back Chicago!” in UIC Forum at 5 pm. The girls were there already at 3 pm and helped the organizers from the core organizations ‘Grassroots collaborative’ & ‘Stand up! Chicago’ to set up the room and distribute printed materials about the event.

At this event about 35 organizations called for affordable housing, fair taxes, increasing of minimum wage, stop public schools’ closing (more info: Majority of the main hall of UIC Forum (fast-food and supermarket workers etc.) declared that a salary: 8,5 USD/per hour is not enough for living in dignity…

The fellows Annamaria Kovacs (Hungary) and Laura Stefanut (Romania) joined their friends Lia & Boba and took a lot of photos during the rally. Being present during the preparation of program, planning the agenda and setting up the room is very important for community organizer – to use the power of people, to have a control of event and to push the guest-speakers (politicians on hot chair on the stage) to make right decisions. It was inspiring rally – full of courageous people.

Direct Action in Wichita

Elena Carbunaru (Romania), Robert Bekefi (Hungary) and Vladislav Petkov (Bulgaria), who are doing their internship in Wichita, Kansas, took part in a direct action that took place on October 15th 2013. The protest happened during Kansas Policy Institute’s annual dinner in Wichita.

KPI is part of American Legislative Exchange Committee (ALEC) and is connected to manipulative researches that feed bad policy and legislation proposals in the sphere of education, healthcare and environment. The protest was organized in collaboration between trade unions and community organizations and groups, among which Sunflower Community Action, Wichita.

European fellows visited Tim Griffin’s office in Little Rock

Kalina Hristova (Bulgaria) and Oana Botezan (Romania) with Arkansas Community Organizations were part of the group that visited U.S. Rep. Tim Griffin’s office in Little Rock delivering a letter calling for him to vote to end the government shut down, lift the debt ceiling, end the automatic spending cuts and raise revenue by closing corporate tax loopholes. ACO was coordinator of the meeting.

More info:

European fellows volunteering at the Immigration Reforming March in Chicago

Korean immigrants and Slovak fellow Boba during the march in Chicago

European fellows from Hungary (Zsofi), Bulgaria (Victoria), Slovakia (Boba) and Romania (Laura) did also a bit of volunteering on Saturday (October 12, 2013) in Chicago. Boba and Laura helped their co-fellows Zsofi and Victoria (from the same fellowship program in U.S., coordinated by Great Lakes Consortium for international training and development & thanks to U.S. department financial support) during very interesting march on immigration reform, organized by one of the hosting organization ICIRR.
The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society.

European fellows Zsofia and Victoria as ICIRR volunteers at immigration reform march in Chicago – 12 October 2013

Thousands of immigrant leaders and families and allies from immigrant rights, labor, faith communities marched on October 12th to demand that Congress should pass immigration reform with dignity, justice and respect for all immigrants.
The action started at Teamster city at 12pm and it ended around 4pm at Daley Plaza in Chicago city. Zsofi and Victoria prepared the banners and posters for the march and helped organizers to gather people from different neighborhoods of Chicago. Laura and Boba took photos, videos and made notes for their reports. The marching people demanded that the federal government should halt deportations, stop the further criminalization of immigrants, and pass legalization that includes a pathway to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented immigrants. We could see hundreds of banners and posters with slogans like: “Legalizacion ahora”, “Obama, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!”; and we could hear the sentences like: “Stop the deportations.”; “Families together.”; “Enough is enough.”

The Most Important idea that we’ve learn that day was: How powerful and strong one crowd of thousands of courageous people can be – when it’s well organized (people stand together to achieve their goal – basic human rights). It can have very strong influence on politicians & decision makers!