“I Have To Give Back To The Community”
By Al Santino, Director of Northeast Community Transformation
Triboro Community Transformation, a partner in ministry with NECT, is a coalition of churches, faith based organizations and concerned citizens working together for the well-being of the communities of Haledon-North Haledon and Prospect Park, New Jersey. Among our efforts have been our English language classes, which have helped empower immigrants in Prospect Park and the surrounding communities for the past four years. Our goal has been to see such programs enable our “recipients” to become “participants” who support each other and work together to address issues of community concern.
Esperanza is a Colombian immigrant who has lived in Prospect Park for eight years. She has participated in three semesters of English classes and completed level three, which helps prepare the students for navigating the marketplace. Esperanza affirmed that the classes helped improve her interaction with her family, her job, filling out applications, and utilizing social media. She also valued “the contact with a diverse group of people from different cultures.”
Under the leadership of our Community Coordinator, Liz Rodriguez, we have established mid-week practice sessions which have become a valuable time for people to connect to learn together and build relationships. Knowing that Esperanza had a passion for building community and had exceled in her English competency, Liz challenged her to lead one of the sessions. She states that “At first I was afraid-how can I help when I know so little?” With Liz’s encouragement she came to the conclusion that “What little I learned I will give.”
Esperanza has done an excellent job leading the sessions and encouraging the participants with genuine concern. I recently thanked her for stepping up to this task. She told me, “I have no choice…I have to give back to the community. We are all interrelated in this community. It is like a body…when one hurts, all hurt.” I asked her what her concerns were for Prospect Park. She stated that, “We don’t know our neighbors, we are all selfish. We are divided among Hispanic, Arabic, white and black people.” I asked her if she would be willing to participate in a neighborhood association to bring people together and address issues, to which she responded with a resounding “yes!”
We bless the Lord for allowing us to participate in this work of His shalom, that being His mercy and justice becoming visible in a community through people sharing the blessings they have received with their neighbors. By His grace may we all come to the same conclusion as Esperanza: “I have no choice…I have to give back to the community.”