Elena's Light is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that strives to empower refugee and immigrant women and children in Connecticut, particularly in the New Haven area. Elena's Light aims to address the challenges that refugee and immigrant women and children face every day in the United States by offering free in-home tutoring focusing on English language education and driver's license test preparation; in-home maternal and child health education; and local community engagement and immersion activities. In addition to our classes and educational programming, we hold events that bring our client community together to nurture social support networks and increase well-being. What mak... read more Elena's Light is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that strives to empower refugee and immigrant women and children in Connecticut, particularly in the New Haven area. Elena's Light aims to address the challenges that refugee and immigrant women and children face every day in the United States by offering free in-home tutoring focusing on English language education and driver's license test preparation; in-home maternal and child health education; and local community engagement and immersion activities. In addition to our classes and educational programming, we hold events that bring our client community together to nurture social support networks and increase well-being. What makes our program unique is that our instruction is provided in the comfort of the clients' homes. This is important because the women in our community suffer particular constraints, often in combination, that prevents them from seeking formal instruction elsewhere. Several no longer qualify for refugee resettlement agency assistance. They also face cultural and linguistic barriers in mixed-gender classrooms; in addition, they often lack transportation or must stay home to care for children. Therefore, our model of in-home services is crucial to our mission of serving vulnerable women and children and a key ingredient in our success to date. In partnership with Yale University's Y-HEALAR project, we have also created a health education series that provides in-home education to refugee women and children.The COVID-19 outbreak has greatly impacted our service delivery model, but we are holding classes online and innovating additional ways to serve our client base in these unprecedented times. We offer several types of programming focused on life skills education and health literacy for women and children. Our flagship ESL program offers one-on-one tutoring to women, with a focus on building English language skills and studying for the Connecticut learner's permit test. All participants receive flexible and individualized tutoring based on their stated goals, in addition to the driver education curriculum. We provide this tutoring service by connecting women with female college students from our three partner universities: University of New Haven, Wesleyan University, and Yale University. Another major initiative we have embarked upon is a yearlong health literacy program in partnership with Yale-Health Education for Asylees and Refugees (Y-HEALAR). This program consists of six health education classes for refugee women and children taught in home settings by Yale medical resident volunteers. We cover many topics, including women's health, healthcare systems navigation, school systems navigation, and common childhood illnesses. Furthermore, we have developed a program catering to refugee children, with a focus on pediatric health education and technological proficiency in partnership with Yale-New Haven Health System's Pediatric Refugee Clinic, consisting of 12 annual visits. At these visits, fellows and residents will provide free lessons on dental hygiene, healthy self-care habits, age-appropriate health and developmental concerns, nutrition, and physical activity. We also collaborate with institutions such as Southern Connecticut State University to secure event space for our community engagement events, like our Refugees' First Thanksgiving in 2019. Recently, we have been approached by The Hispanic Clinic of the Connecticut Mental Health Center to forge future plans for outreach and collaboration with the communities they serve and look forward to furthering conversations with them. At Elena's Light, we believe that our differences are what make us unique, and they are worth celebrating. We work hard to create an equitable community and culture that celebrates and values diverse backgrounds, identities, and perspectives. All of the women and children we serve come from different cultural and religious backgrounds, and they have arrived in the United States after often harrowing experiences in their countries of origin. The process of settling in the US is in part a process of cultural adjustment, as our clients must learn to navigate their new communities and social norms. However, we believe it is just as important for those to seek to assist these women to also learn to adjust their attitudes and practices to engage with our clients and their families in a more culturally sensitive and competent way. That is why, for example, we include as a core objective of our health literacy program the aim that our Y-HEALAR volunteer teachers come through the program with increased cultural competency and skills in dealing with the health needs of refugee and immigrant women and children, particularly those that face the structural and cultural barriers that our clients do. In sum, our organizational model and mission by nature demand that we take equity and inclusion seriously, and we strive to do so in all of our programming.
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