We first met Raja this past fall, when she came to our Tuesday night clinic seeking help with her green card application. A refugee from Iraq, Raja had been in the United States for a year and was eager to establish permanent residency in this country. She has no family here and receives food stamps. Although Raja’s immigration case has been rather straightforward, we have been able to help her in other ways thanks to our social work intern, Jeincy.
During Raja’s initial intake interview with us, she answered “yes” to the question “Would you like to speak to a social worker here about other possible services you might need, such as food, housing, medical, driver’s license, passport, etc?” We added this question to our intake last fall after Jeincy began her internship with Just Neighbors through George Mason University’s Masters in Social Work (MSW) program. Jeincy is able to work with clients who have self-identified as having a need apart from their immigration issue. She is supervised by a volunteer who has an MSW and helps ensure clients are linked to other service providers.
During Raja’s first meeting with Jeincy, Raja was worried because she did not know how she was going to pay her rent that month. Her previous job’s contract had ended and she had not yet found a new one. She was also stressed because she had been in a car accident and did not know how she was going to pay for her hospital bill. We connected Raja with several amazing local agencies that together ensured her rent was covered. In addition, Jeincy introduced Raja to an application for financial assistance from the hospital, an option she did not know existed.
Three weeks later, Raja learned that her hospital bill would be 100% covered. With both of these significant stressors removed, Jackie landed a job. She is now also receiving financial aid to attend a community college.
Meanwhile, we submitted Raja’s application to Immigration in late October, notified Immigration of her new address after she moved, and verified that she had received her fingerprint appointment notice. We now await the approval of her green card. We are glad to have been able to help Raja with issues other than her green card without detracting from our focus on her immigration case. Jeincy has been working with over twenty clients; they have varied needs and appreciate receiving services at a place they have come to trust.
Around the Office
In January, we received 193 calls for assistance– 30 percent more than our next highest month on record. This is partly explained by the renewal period for El Salvadoran Temporary Protected Status opening up, but there are certainly other factors as well. Among the 193 calls, we scheduled 49 for an appointment and referred out 132. The 132 callers were referred out primarily for the following reasons: lack of capacity (34%), a different type of immigration case than we currently handle (32%), a non-immigration matter, such as family law (11%), the caller was over our income guidelines (10%), or the caller lived outside of Northern Virginia (8%). These reasons for referrals are new data that we are tracking in order to assess how we can best meet the needs of the immigrant community.
Just Neighbors is grateful for recent funding from the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, the Herb Block Foundation, and United Way Community Impact Grant funding from Arlington County, the Ciity of Alexandria, Fairfax County, Loudoun County, and Prince William County.
If you come to our office on a Thursday or Friday, you are likely to find an impressive array of pastries in the lobby available to our clients and their families. This month we began a partnership with the local Starbucks to take their unsold pastries every Thursday morning to disburse to our clients. Yum.
Volunteer of the Month
Around the office we joke that when a trilingual Harvard graduate with good social skills and a pleasant demeanor finds your organization and wants to volunteer with you, you’re doing something right. Gloriya Kavetskaya began volunteering with Just Neighbors three days each week starting in November. She translates and interprets in Spanish for us (and Russian when necessary) and helps at the front desk with a wide range of projects. Thank you Gloriya!
We want to congratulate our volunteer Theresa Meehan who has volunteered three days a week since May and was our August Volunteer of the Month. Theresa accepted a paralegal job with an area immigration law firm. We consider her a part of the Just Neighbors family, and look forward to her help on weekends and evenings.