Combatting exclusionary rhetoric that “others” – immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers – face, and changing national policies that exacerbate fear, which leads to increased rates of anxiety, depression, ulcers, migraines, and more is a key component of Aquinas Center’s work. The Mind, Body, Spirit, and Space Initiative will deepen and expand wellness components across Aquinas Center programs and enhance how their physical space expresses compassion. The initiative will engage the approximately 550 adult language learners, senior citizens, children and youth, and program staff who come through the Center’s doors each week. The Mind, Body, Spirit, and Space Initiative will touch their lives in real and meaningful ways.
- Adult Programs: Funds will be used to develop and teach mental health literacy units comparable to existing English class lessons that cover medical literacy, translate nutrition sheets, and to purchase totes/carts for seniors to carry produce home from our weekly harvest distribution.
- Children and Youth: A yoga/mindfulness curriculum will be developed and implemented for summer camps by an instructor who is culturally competent and understands migration trauma. The Center will also expand a successful pilot after school program to three days a week by hiring a lead program coordinator who is bi-lingual and can deliver an integrated culture/wellness/literacy curriculum.
- Organizational Capacity: While some team members have had mental health training, Aquinas Center has not had the capacity to build this into our ongoing staff development. Receiving necessary training and developing protocols and policies for responding to critical situations. In the fall, they piloted “sustain the resistance” activities like group salsa dancing and hot meals to create therapeutic staff support. Continuing to nurture team members is key. Additionally, they will hire an MSW site supervisor who oversees field placements that bring social work interns to their programs.
- Physical space: In January 2017, executive orders proposing a ban on Muslims and refugees, increased deportations, and a border wall amplified fear. Aquinas Center asked allies to send messages of support and over 450 notes became our Hallway of Hope. Recognizing the power of creative action to build solidarity, this year they launched the Monarcas Project and invited people to fold an origami butterfly, share it on social media, mail it in, and see it become an art installation. Funding will support a third iteration of creative action in 2019.