SAMU First Response and Washington English Center join forces to support non fluent english speakers migrants

“Without language, one cannot talk to people and understand them; one cannot share their hopes and aspirations, grasp their history, appreciate their poetry, or savor their songs” – Nelson Mandela

At SAMU First Response, one of our greatest assets is communication and the ability to speak to our guests in their native language. Language is the roadmap of a culture, and without it, it is impossible to fully understand the individual and where they come from. We are fortunate to say that the majority of our 70+ staff members in the Washington, DC and Maryland area are linguistically diverse and able to communicate directly with the vast majority of our guests.

We strive for excellence in our staff and our services and are constantly looking for ways to improve our knowledge and skills, including our forms of communication. The majority of our staff members’ first language is Spanish, which is an immense asset when working with the community of migrants that are traveling from Central and South America. As our organization has grown in the metro area and we are working on educating the community of the services that we provide, we have constantly sought opportunities for our staff to bolster their English language skills. This will help with educating our community about who we are and what we provide, as well as providing us with the skills to better serve our guests and help them connect with the resources available in the community.

At the end of 2023, we were very fortunate to receive several scholarships from the local English Language School, Washington English Center (WEC). Since 1993, more than 30 years, Washington English Center has welcomed immigrants and refugees to the United States as they learn to read, write, listen to, and speak English with greater fluency and confidence. Their mission is to provide affordable English-language instruction and workforce programs to adult immigrants using community volunteers.

WEC graciously offered SAMU multiple scholarships so that our employee’s, whose second language is English, can have the opportunity to speak with greater fluency and confidence, which leads to being able to provide better services and opportunities for those migrants that we serve.  We are proud to partner with an organization whose mission is to help the lives of immigrants and refugees who come to the United States to seek a better life and are actively providing them with the tools and resources to create the life they are looking for.

Currently, fourteen of our staff members have accepted the challenge to better their English communication skills through the group classes and individual tutoring offered by WEC. These staff members will be able to take the lessons that they learn in the classrooms and apply them directly to helping the individuals that walk through our doors by being able to confidently advocate for their needs through phone calls to local shelters, bridge programs, local schools for the children, report important data and information to local authorities and general guidance in the United States for those migrants that stay with us in our respite centers.

The organization is powered by community volunteers, so the English language teachers are flexible to work with our staff members to create a learning environment conducive to the demanding schedule that exists with working in first response.  Our staff members have been able to attend classes during work hours in a quiet corner of the respite centers or in the comfort of their own homes. The supporters of WEC come from all walks of life, just like the supporters of SAMU First Response, and are children of immigrants and refugees, and companies owned and run by immigrants. The DC Mayor’s Office on Asian and Pacific Islander Affairs (MOAPIA) is a large supporter of WEC and Ben de Guzman, Director of MOAPIA, believes that “the work that WEC does in terms of providing its students with the language skills for a fair shot at upward mobility is so important.” We make it a goal to partner with organizations whose mission and goals are similar in creating better lives for all immigrants to receive a fair shot at a life in the United States.

We are forever grateful for the support that we receive from the community in the Washington, D.C. area and the alliance that we have formed with Washington English Center, whose mission has been alive for more than 30 years helping immigrants and refugees arriving to the D.C area.  We always say that the community support is what makes our organization strong and able to continue with the mission of helping migrants who arrive in need of a place to rest and start their new lives in the United States.

We at SAMU First Response are forever thankful to the entire staff and volunteers at Washington English Center. Thank you for the knowledge, skills, and confidence you have provided our staff members and the continued work that you do helping immigrants and refugees arriving in the Washington, D.C. area.

SAMU launches a program of distance learning for students with hearing impairment

After the state of emergency was declared in Spain as a result of the global crisis caused by Covid-19, the 16th of March marked the closing date for all education centers in the country, at all levels. The closing force centers and teachers to change their methodology and go from an in person to 100% virtual in record timing creating a great challenge for the education community. 

Distance learning has allowed a great section of the student population to continue with instructions. However, students with hearing impairment have not been able to advance their studies because interpreters have not been provided by public administration. 

“This has created a great prejudice towards students with hearing impairment, alongside an increasing learning gap between them and other groups” explains Conchi Pérez, chief of student services at SAMU. 

With this situation, SAMU has moved to develop a program of distance learning for students with hearing impairment. The program has been presented to the Agencia Pública Andaluza de Educación de la Consejería de Educación, and later shared to all other autonomies throughout the country. 

The main purposes of this new program is to address the educational needs of this special group so they can level up with their peers. This will further help the social and labor integration. “This project is born out of the needs to adapt our educational system to work under the current sanitary crises created by Covid-19” says Conchi Pérez. “The main objective is to get the information that educators provide in their classrooms or from their homes and make sure that there is no learning loss to the students in the higher education and vocational centers”

In order for distance learning to reach all students equally, the program will have a virtual platform using existing technology, in which all students can connect at the same time and to provide an interpreter. That way the students will gave equal access to both the instructor and interpreters, maintaining a situation similar to their previous in classroom experience. This will be possible given the previous access to materials provided to interpreters so that they are ready to transmit what is needed to learn. 

“The only thing needed is access to the platform to the students, instructors and interpreters, with reliable internet access and camera and audio capabilities” explains Conchi Pérez. “The student will have the opportunity to participate during online sessions, raising questions and answering at the same time as the rest of the students”.

SAMY wants to expand this program beyond the regular educational cycle into the summer break to supplement learning as it will be offered to other students during the month of July. This will allow all student to catch up with any learning loss emerging out of the pandemic. “If needed, this program can prolong into the fall, given the uncertainty with the return to in person schooling”

The area of Education Services at SAMU counts with a team of over 70 interpreters of sign language that provide in classroom services during the regular school year in education center in the province of Almería, Huelva, Jaén, Cádiz y Córdoba.

Starting on July 16, Fundación SAMU will also provide accompanying services for people with hearing impairment Comunidad de Madrid, for which it already counts with a body of 24 sing language interpreters.

SAMU joins the efforts to increase access to Automatic External Defibrillators around the world

SAMU is now joining forces with the Cisali Project, a free mobile app that provides users the opportunity to search for and register the location of automatic external defibrillators (AED) around the world. 

Ever year, around 1.8 million people die of cardiac arrest. Everyone is vulnerable to cardiac arrest, this could happen any time and any place and access to an AED could be a game changing factor. 

Cisali is an independent NGO with the sole purpose of saving lives through the quick access to an AED.

This app also aims to create awareness to the role and support than anyone can bring to aid someone. Users can register as CPR certified and enable themselves to help as first responder. 

Through the app, users can:

  1. Locate the nearest AED 
  2. Call the local emergency services (911)
  3. Locate a CPR certified individual nearby

The app has no commercial purposes and it’s entirely free and crowdsource, so the more users, the better the information. To learn more, check out this video: 

Eco-SAMU: Small actions toward greater change

The international summits on climate change have manifested an unquestionable truth: The world as we know it is in danger. Likewise, there is a consensus on the scientific community about this threat. We have seen the response from citizens, institutions and the private sector, all shifting towards protecting the space were we live. SAMU, through its sustainability department, is specifically focusing on this objective. 

The organization focuses on caring for the places where it operates and reducing footprint in their actions. Under the mandate of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) from the United Nation, SAMU has undertaken a new project, Eco-SAMU. Under this project, all SAMU centers are directly responsible for the collection of residues in their areas of work and impact, working not only with individuals, but with public and private partners.

Of the most important objectives of this project, as explained by Rocio Alvarez, Director of SAMU’s Sustainability Department,  is to contribute to the improvement of the environment starting with small actions, reducing the  environmental impact of its actions, creating greater alliances to protect the planet, and creating awareness on the need to protect the environment. 

With the last thing in mind, SAMU is conducting workshops along with activities to collect waste around the different SAMU Centers. 

The minors in the Centro de Inserción Sociolaboral (ISL) in Granada, were the first to participate in the project, collecting waste around the beach areas. They have also been joined by the center in El Bosque, where the community conducted a series of cleanups around the Majacete River, the Sierra de Cadiz as well as the Santa Teresa residence in Toledo. 

The latest group to join the Eco-SAMU initiatives are the users and workers from the SAMU Wellness center, by collecting plastic trash around the center in Seville.