OK! This is a long one! You will want to read it all though because it is exciting stuff!
What a dynamic last couple of weeks we have had! This past week we had the pleasure of meeting the new Executive Director for the Missoula IRC office and let me tell you folks- we lucked out! Molly Short-Carr is amazing. She is fun and sassy and energetic and seems like she will fit right in here in Missoula! On top of this she has extensive experience in refugee resettlement as the Executive Director for a resettlement program in Buffalo, NY, and most recently, has experience on the refugee "intake" side while working in Nairobi, Kenya for the past 2 years. With everything that goes into starting a new program, I have all the faith that this positive, unflappable, and well-spoken woman will do a spectacular job. I can't wait for you all to meet her!
On that note, we have had some updates on what the next couple months may bring. It looks like our first few families will be arriving by late August/early September and will most likely be refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are so excited for the arrival of the first family, but realize we have A LOT of work to do in a short period of time. Over the next couple weeks as we continue to learn more about the conflict, culture and people of the DRC, I will be sharing this info with you. We may even have time to have a gathering around these topics and if this is something anyone would like to assist in putting together, let me know.... As I wrote earlier, Molly Short-Carr is coming from working in that area of the world, has extensive knowledge of the situation and will be helping to guide us through this learning.
As August is rapidly approaching, SLM is nailing down our initial programing and I would like to take the time to share some of that with you here. First and foremost, we officially have a Board of Directors for SLM. Look for their names and biographical information to be posted soon on our website! They are all spectacular and we are so grateful for their participation!
We have formed committees around 1) Education and Outreach 2) Program Development 3) Fundraising and 4) Governance.
The Education and Outreach Committee will focus on interactions with the Missoula (and Montana) community. We will be working on providing educational meetings, cross-cultural trainings and a media plan. This committee will work closely with the IRC to collaborate on outreach and utilize some of their amazing resources for education across the state as well as for volunteers working with refugees. This committee will also continue to support the relationships and work that has previously been started with our city's leaders, facilities and organizations that will be interacting with refugees.
The Program Development Committee will try to select the most important things for initial focus from our 801 fun ideas. These programs will focus on assisting refugees to integrate into our community through mentorship and service projects, creating a gathering space to bring Missoulians and refugees together and continuing to organize and begin to harness all of the amazing volunteers. This committee will work closely with the IRC to understand where needs are popping up and collaborate on filling the gaps. We are especially excited to also pull young people into these programs as many of the refugees will be children and we have gotten a groundswell of interest from Middle School and High School aged kids who want to be a part of this. So amazing.
The Fundraising Committee will begin to put together a more serious and structured fundraising campaign so we can actualize the above goals. We will begin to work towards 1 full time and 1 part time paid staff positions as a way to create a sustaining organization.
The Governance Committee will help guide the creation of a strong and legally compliant organization as we move forward into a more formal structure.
Why do I tell you all this? Because this is what you all have been waiting for and our success will be highly dependent on amazing supporters and volunteers such as yourselves!
So here are the 3 calls to action....
1) Let me know if you are interested in serving on one of the first 3 committees (minus the Governance one, which you really don't want to be on anyway! Ha!). Please specify which committee. We will be asking for serious volunteers for this that will be able to commit to make it to at least 1 meeting a month and volunteer at least 5 hours a month toward committee goals.
2) In conjunction with the IRC, we are looking for volunteers for a Friendship/Mentorship program. We are hoping to build teams of 5 volunteers for each incoming family that will serve as tour guides, community liaisons, advocates and most importantly- friends. Since we will most likely be seeing one family at a time, this will start slow and we won't be able to utilize everyone right away that will want to participate in this. That said, we do want to get 3 teams of 5 set in anticipation of our first 3 families. This will also involve a longer term commitment to these families. We want to create some sense of normalcy and security in the storm that will be the first bit of their life here.
3) I'm going to say it. We need money to help our organization reach its full potential and promote our vision of helping Missoula be a welcoming, supportive and informed community that has the capacity to assist refugees to integrate and thrive. If this is a possibility for you, please consider a tax deductible donation to Soft Landing Missoula. You can Donate-
1) Through our website
2) By check made out to the Jeanette Rankin Peace Center with Soft Landing Missoula in the memo and sent to P.O. Box 8733, Missoula, Mt 59807 or
3) By cash/check delivered to the storefront at the JRPC at 519 S. Higgins Ave. - again, specify Soft Landing Missoula.
We are so very grateful for you all and look forward to all that is to come!
It is also of note that some amazing volunteers have revamped our website and it looks spectacular so make sure you check it out! Thank you Miranda and Ali!
Ok... You have made it to the end. Here, I will write my final comments about the beginning... This is it. We have arrived. The IRC office is here. We know a more accurate projection for our first families that will be arriving soon. More programs are beginning to take shape. This is the beginning of the hard work, commitment and amazing opportunity we have made a reality. It now begins and I feel so honored for all of you that have made it a priority in your lives to help families that have been forced to flee horrendous situations and are in need of a safe and welcoming home. Let's do this!