Episode 101

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Published on:

6th Feb 2024

The Welcome Network with Laurie Wanta

Episode 101 is here. This week, Laurie Wanta joins us to talk about The Welcome Network. The Welcome Network is a 501(c)3 nonprofit that helps displaced individuals—including refugees—find their way in the Greater West Bend Area.

It's a great cause!

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Transcript
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If you're familiar with that name, there's a good chance that either you or your child took German in the West Bend School District where she's been a German teacher for more than 30 years. She recently started a non profit organization called The Welcome Network, which serves to welcome refugees and other displaced newcomers to the greater West Bend area.

And with that, here are 15 minutes on The Welcome Network with Laurie Wanta on 15 Minutes with Fuzz.

Laurie, thank you for coming in. Can you start by telling us a little bit about your background?

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Guten Morgen, yes,

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And we are Our vision is to redeem displacement, and we just are here as a network of people. So, we're not a center.

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But, not at this time.

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with the Afghan evacuation in:

And so I responded to that. ask through my church, Kettlebrook Church, and then a few other congregations also had people responding. And so through that experience of being on a team and helping a family resettle with the help of Lutheran Social Services, by the way, they were the immigration service team.

They were our, we were co sponsors in that regard. So they, they were the immigration, um, sort of certified with the Department of Justice. And we were just here to help them find their way. And as I, I worked with that family and over the last two years, it just shined a light on the need that's actually already here.

There are lots of people in our community who are from other places. And we just had this strong reaction. We came around them as with teams, it was really necessary because of all the needs they had, but a lot of people are here and they don't have that support. And so the Welcome Network is really grew out of that.

And I have to give a shout out to Kettlebrook because as I came up with this idea, they really encouraged me and, and, and backed us up and are basically our launch partner. And now it's like been only six or seven months and we're already a non profit ready to go. We're going to launch next month.

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What are some of the challenges that they see as refugees in a new place?

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One of a woman, so two years later, someone, she just drove by herself for the first time to the food pantry and she was so excited. Her husband was sick and she did it. Even ESL classes. So we've just partnered with a couple of people who want to take English classes. They are signed up to take English classes, but they're just for these barriers where they just couldn't make it to class on a regular basis.

And so we have a networker assigned to them to make sure that every day that the class happens that there's just nothing in the way. So they could actually receive the services. So we partner with Casa Guadalupe. We will partner with the school district, um, the family center. They're already providing services, but there, there are barriers to even just getting to those services.

For example, you know, doctor's appointments, the, our medical institutions have now great supports for language translation. Once they're in the clinics and being with the providers, But sometimes just making the appointment, getting to the appointment, explain, calling if there's a problem. These are things that make it really hard to navigate if you're, if you have, if you A language or a cultural barrier.

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Like they're fun things, but like, why, why do, and what do I wear? So they're. There's reasons to have help for young people too, not just adults who are trying to navigate.

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That sounds like something I want. Um, So what is the, the need in our community? Is this a very, a very large need right now? Is it growing?

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Also, in our schools, there are about 20 languages spoken. So, it tells you that we have people among us who, part of their family, maybe their whole family, needs support in this way. We are not an immigration service. We just are about believing that outsiders matter to God. And so, without going into a big sermon, you know, outsiders need to matter to us.

And the idea is that we anticipate in the world that there will be people who will find their way to us. And, in fact, because of the pressures on the government, uh, to find places for, uh, immigrants and refugees, the government put some new programs into place to allow private citizens to bring refugees to the U.

S., it's called Welcome Corps, and we do, we're not actively, so, uh, the Welcome Network isn't actively a U. S. A. bringing people here, but we do anticipate that some people will in our area and we want to be ready to welcome them in a way that, um, is really beneficial for all of us, right? When everyone, when people come here and they feel like They're a part of us, you know, they contribute a lot

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They are beloved, really wonderful people, and they want, we want them to enrich our community. Right. And yeah, we just don't think that they should have to struggle so much doing it.

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So as part of the Welcome Network, you have the Welcomers program. Can you explain what that program is, how that works, and how community members can get involved as welcomers?

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And the welcome basket will have things in it that make someone feel welcome, like we will have some items from our community, maybe some cheese or some honey, or we are working on, you know, some t shirts and a blanket or a welcome mat, something like that inside this welcome basket, but also resources.

So we are designing calendars that we will custom create. with QR codes for people who contribute to and support and sponsor what we're doing. So for example, you know, all of the urgent care places in West Bend, we will have a binder for the family with that information really in simple English with QR codes so that they can scan and then translate if they need to.

We'll have a list of all the grocery stores. We'll have information about some city services like. Garbage pickup and shoveling expectations, things like that, that. We hope will feel to them like, wow, , this is amazing. And then we will just ask them if they'd like help

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And so what we hope will grow, hope will grow out of the welcome visit. Is then a networker covenant, which means that they would willingly say, yes, I would like help with this or that task. Maybe it's just to spend time speaking English. Maybe it's to get a driver's license. Mm-Hmm. , maybe. It's, it's a task oriented.

And so what we do is we just get the two people together. We make sure they can communicate whatever, if it's on a, on WhatsApp or how they plan to communicate, and then they. engage in the work of doing that, navigating that thing. Um, for example, like, as I said, like getting the ESL classes or the driver's license.

So that's the NetWorker program. The NetWorker program is about, really, that's more intensive because you're spending time. You're saying, you know, over the course of so many months, We will regularly be together, but that's very, it varies, you know, depending on the task and on the time that the people have.

So it can be tailored to your sort of season of life, the kind of time you have.

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You really want to welcome others. It's how, it's what happens. And also you have language skills that you can then turn around and use, of course. So yes, we absolutely are planning to have teams of people, including recent newcomers, right? Once they feel like they've, they know they feel comfortable here, they'll be able to welcome others.

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And after about three of those sessions, then you'll be sort of certified, I guess you'd say, to be. Welcome Network. And we do a background check and just make sure everyone, you know, understands our code of conduct. And then after that, people will be able to serve.

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Who should attend that event and what can they expect at that event?

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So there'll be some video stories of welcoming, and then just. An introduction to the Welcome Network and the opportunity to learn more about the different ways someone could get involved. And so people can sign up where we hope to have some refreshments there. It's going to be sort of a celebration, um, but the public is welcome to come and check us out.

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So you just have to make sure you find us, thewelcome. network. And on the, in the website, you'll see that there's different ways that someone can engage, different kinds of opportunities to volunteer.

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And uh, we really, I, I really appreciate that you've taken the time out of your life to make this happen and made this your mission. This is, uh, this is wonderful. So thank you. And thanks for coming on the show.

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You're already an insider on your own culture, and that's what we're looking for, to share insider knowledge to newcomers.

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That is 15. Spelled out with fuzz@gmail.com 15 with fuzz@gmail.com or go to fuzz.cc/guest. And fill out the form. Again, that's fuzz. CC slash guest New episodes come out on Tuesdays. Yes, I do have a steady stream of some new episodes that will be coming your way in the next few weeks, barring any unforeseen circumstances.

Thank you again for listening. Have a great week and I'll chat with you next time, right here on 15 minutes with fun.

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Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz
Showcasing the positive things happening in Washington County, Wisconsin.
Fifteen Minutes with Fuzz is sheds light on all the great things going on in and around Washington County, Wisconsin. The host, Fuzz Martin, is a local business owner (EPIC Creative) and a former radio personality (92.5 WBWI - now Buzz Country). New episodes launch on Tuesday mornings. https://fifteenwithfuzz.com

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Fuzz Martin is a partner and Chief Strategy Officer at EPIC Creative in West Bend, Wis.