SLM Newsletter 4/1/20- Connecting in a time of social isolation.


This is a word I have been thinking about and hearing about so much over the past 2 weeks.  Many of us seem to be struggling to find that balance between social isolation (think: shelter in place, working and parenting from home), connection (think; friendships, hugs, seeing extended family, loved ones, and co-workers), and over stimulation (think: there is such thing as too much information- even in times of crisis right?).  While this is certainly a personal challenge, it is also an organizational challenge and we hope we can hit the sweet spot- a heartfelt true connection that brings value to the lives of those we interact with and serve.  While I don’t want to downplay the challenges that our community faces, including newly resettled refugees who are some of the most economically vulnerable among us (many have not yet had enough time to build the needed financial security to get through something like this unscathed), I have also been so fortunate to see beautiful silver linings emerge and one of these is connection – even if it is connection at a distance.  For Soft Landing, this unprecedented situation has grown and solidified bonds with partner organizations, supporters, and the refugee families we serve. In some ways, we feel even more connected because we have had to step a bit out of our comfortable bubble we had found over the last couple years with our core programming and back into the unknown (not a place we are unfamiliar with!).  So yes, while this crisis is mind-blowingly challenging on so many levels- there is actually a lot we can do as individuals and as a community to make sure we come out on the other side stronger, better equipped for future challenges, and yes, more connected than ever.

I want to share with you a bit about what we are doing to make sure the roughly 45 refugee and immigrant families we serve are staying safe and getting what they need in this uncertain time. This has been a substantial (temporary) shift in programming for us and I want to say here, that the Soft Landing team has stepped up to the plate with grace and passion- THANK YOU Molly, Greta and Maria- you guys are my heroes.  Also, we are doing this with so many great partners, including the International Rescue Committee, Missoula Alliance Church, the Missoula City/County Health Department, and Missoula County Public Schools and we are in AWE of how many individuals and organizations have stepped up to assist those in our community affected most. 

Here are some quick bullet points about what we are up to and later in this (way too long, I know…) email, I will be posting a Zoom link to hop on a “Town Hall” video chat with us to hear more or ask any questions you may have!  Kind of a fun way to get some face time with you all, many of you we dearly miss seeing in the office regularly, so I really hope you will join us on Friday April 3rd at 11 am OR 7 pm (MT) on Zoom (same content, two different time slots).

SLM’s last 2 1/2 weeks (and the foreseeable future):

1- Research and dissemination of culturally appropriate information about COVID-19 safety and available resources (changing constantly) in native languages so that refugees can have equal access to information.

2- Delivery of supplies (food, diapers, etc…) to families that already struggle with transportation, many of whom work in the service industry and have been laid off due COVID-19.  (Shout out to the amazing work of the Missoula Food Bank!!!)

3- Purchasing of food and supplies for affected families.  This especially includes culturally specific food items that are essential staples in these family’s diets that are not available through the Missoula Food Bank (ie: teff flour for injera, cornmeal for ugali, etc…).

4- Providing technology assistance (securing donated or purchased computers and helping to set them up, get them online, etc..) for middle school and high school kids during school closures to make sure they have equal access to education. 

5- Organizing and providing appropriate training for volunteers for online tutoring for middle school/ high school kids to support MCPS online learning curriculum.

6- Providing support to families with young school aged children through dropping off books and school materials and talking with parents about academic activities (such as trying to have the kids reading for at least an hour a day).

7- Ensuring that refugee adults with lost and/or reduced employment are able to access available and appropriate financial resources such as Unemployment Insurance, TANF, SNAP, etc… 

8- Providing connection to community for refugee families. SLM is doing regular check-ins (per most recent safety guidelines and social distancing rules) with each family and coordinating with partners to make sure physical and emotional needs are being met during this time. Although this is a confusing and isolating time for many refugee families, knowing that they are connected to a community and have a circle of people who care about them is reassuring and important to their mental health.

9- Connecting with our Soft Landing community- this is where you come in!  Hop on the Zoom Town Hall with us this Friday, or email me to suggest another time that would work for you to connect!  We are here and working hard and want you to continue to feel connected to this work you have so generously supported with your time and resources!

OK!  Thanks for making it this far in this email update, and we really do hope to “see” you Friday to chat more! Hang in there guys.  This is hard.  Never hesitate to reach out to us and PLEASE, stay well in health, mind, and spirit.

In love and gratitude,


Friday April 3rd- 11am

Town Hall style video meeting to chat about what has been going on with refugee families in Missoula and how you can help!

11 am Zoom Link

Friday April 3rd- 7pm

Town Hall style video meeting to chat about what has been going on with refugee families in Missoula and how you can help!

7 pm Zoom Link

Enjoy these super boring pictures of us Zooming the last couple weeks with board members, donors, and University classes- intended to make us look savy and smart but which will almost certainly result in karmatic unplanned technical difficulties with our Town Hall calls! 

Virtual board meeting

Virtual board meeting

Individual check-ins with donors and volunteers

Individual check-ins with donors and volunteers

Education and outreach efforts also switched to Zoom!  This is a previously scheduled presentation for a UM class that we were able to still do virtually.

Education and outreach efforts also switched to Zoom! This is a previously scheduled presentation for a UM class that we were able to still do virtually.