Friday, October 23, 2009

Having an IMPACT: Our involvement in the Charlottesville community

I want to draw your attention to an important event earlier this week in Charlottesville that has the potential of improving the lives of some of the most vulnerable among us.

Members of the 31 congregations of IMPACT (Interfaith Movement Promoting Action by Congregations Together), a coalition of faith communities here, met on Monday evening to decide on an issue we should focus on in the coming year.

St. Paul's brought 39 people to the meeting, and I especially want to thank John Frazee for his tireless efforts and commitment to IMPACT. John also was elected co-president of IMPACT, and that is him in the photograph taken by the Rev. Ann Willms, our associate rector.

By an overwhelming vote, the issue of interpretative services is our focus. That may sound like a simple issue, but it is not. I think that is a gutsy move because the lack of such services negatively impacts some of our most vulnerable communities, particularly refugees and immigrants who make a living by providing services to the economically advantaged. I want to voice my own support for this direction.

Here is what John has to say about the meeting and the issue:
You might have already heard that the chosen issue was interpretive services. It was a landslide, not just because Church of the Incarnation had over 120 people there, more than half of them Hispanic. Many other congregations joined them. I believe it's because this is a very tangible justice issue, and we believe the research committee can find an achievable goal for the Nehemiah Action [the meeting in the Spring where public officials are invited and IMPACT presents proposals].

A quick background on the Interpretive Services issue - from the house meetings, they gathered the following problem areas:
- Lack of translation services in court system for Spanish and other languages spoken by the refugee population;
- Not enough Spanish language translation available in courts, police, emergency services, jail;
- Police discrimination: refusal of translation;
- Lack of translation materials sent home from school;
- And as we heard in the testimony: children are often compelled to translate for parents in situations where young people should not be required to participate (police, courts, family services).

Kay Lancaster was kind enough to send along this link indicating the LEP (Limited English Proficient) services available in our community. You can find the link by clicking

Now it will be the job of the research committees to find out where IMPACT can have the greatest effect in making sure that these services are sufficient or sufficiently utilized.

Which leads to the next steps: if anyone is interested in participating in either the pre-school education or the interpretive services research groups, please let me know. IMPACT has restructured the research committees, and will be leveraging a trained facilitator. This will ensure that the meetings are run effectively, including compilation and communication of meeting minutes and results.

And on a personal note, I am extremely excited about working with Vickie Johnson-Williams as co-president of IMPACT this coming year. Vickie is a warm, hard-working member of IMPACT, and I am blessed to have her as a partner. I am confident that IMPACT will continue to bring in new congregations, but I am equally committed to deepening IMPACT's roots in the existing membership. And, as an organization, we are still relatively young - so there's lots to learn. I look forward to getting input from all of you - please share your thoughts, ideas, dreams.

Thanks again for your continued interest in this important ministry.




Janice Dean said...

As I have already told John, I also think this was a great move by IMPACT. We take for granted so many of the people who need interpretation services in our community, and I think that ensuring they can communicate effectively with important services like the "courts, police, emergency services, jail," and with their children's teachers is the absolute least we can do to give them a fair shake. Thanks, John, and everyone else involved in IMPACT!

John said...

Thanks, Jim, for posting this. My nomination was in no small part due to the incredible involvement of the St. Paul's community in IMPACT's work moving justice forward in the city and county. I am grateful for all that you and the members of St. Paul's do for this ministry. With your help - ¡SI, SE PUEDE!