In the midst of a pandemic, building community may seem impossible. But over the past two years, NWIRP’s Wenatchee office has thrived by building connections with partner organizations to better serve immigrants and their families in North Central Washington. These connections have allowed us to meet the needs of our clients, and enabled our partners to refer people they serve to NWIRP. These partners include Wenatchee for Immigrant Justice, which started in response to the atrocities of the Trump Administration and provides cash assistance to community members in crisis; Parque Padrinos, which provides direct health services to immigrants including COVID response resources; and the Immigrant and Latinx Solidarity Group (ILSG), a coalition of community leaders who focuses on challenging and changing systems of injustice in the greater Wenatchee area.
When one of our clients needed to leave a bad situation in their home, we were able to connect them with Irene Morrow from Wenatchee for Immigrant Justice who was able to get our client a hotel room where they could be safe, as well as provide them with money for food and other necessities.
Parque Padrinos has provided direct assistance and resources for our clients and their families throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, recognizing that these community members are particularly vulnerable to the virus since many of them work at jobs that do not provide a work-from-home option or the ability to safely call in sick if they are ill. Members of our staff have joined the Immigrant and Latinx Solidarity Group in order to use their collective power to challenge injustice. When Chelan and Douglas county officials rushed to prematurely reopen businesses, the ILSG submitted an op-ed to a local newspaper raising their concerns that reopening should be done “safely, based on scientific evidence and public health recommendations, and with input from essential workers who are most directly impacted.”
When reflecting back on the impact that these partnerships have had on her over the past two years, Wenatchee Office Directing Attorney Vanessa Gutierrez had this to say:
“I’ve never felt more connected to the community than I have since COVID started. So many of our partners saw the need to advocate for community members during this time and have been able to make a direct impact by working together.”
We spoke with Irene Morrow of Wenatchee for Immigrant Justice about how this work has impacted her:
“I am a retired nurse practitioner. I knew people as patients but was never really out and about in their world. This has really opened up my eyes. I kind of feel like we’ve all had to become barefoot social workers. There just aren’t sufficient services for people here. Even the community health center didn’t have social workers. It’s a huge need in the area and with the pandemic and annual wildfires on top of it. We’ve been connecting with the community by putting together resource lists in Spanish so folks know where to go for services. We’ve also been helping people with direct assistance like providing food and money for workers who are in quarantine and don’t have family who can help them.
We have a huge broken healthcare system and folks who are undocumented don’t have access to the same resources. It’s enraging. But I’m glad that so many people are taking action in our community to fight back.”