I’m pleased to say that I’ve moved myself and my consulting practice to Taos, New Mexico. I’ll still be working with people and organizations in Dallas, but I’m happy to be able to add my talents to those of folks who are working hard to improve the lot of one of the lowest income states in the country. It’ll be less about buildings and more about helping of children and adults who are struggling to find ways to remain in an area that has one of the strongest senses of place I’ve ever seen.
As I look back over my year at NCJW Greater Dallas, I can point to a number of organizational achievements of which I am very proud. The project I was most proud to be associated with, though, was one that perhaps I had the least influence over: NCJW’s Aid to Immigrant Families program.
In the summer of 2014, Dallas County faced the possibility of an influx of tens of thousands of unaccompanied immigrant children. Social service organizations all over the county tried to understand the problem and came up with all sorts of potential ways to help. NCJW did what it always does: took a hard look, assessed existing resources for the kids, and found the place where it could best make a difference..
Early on, volunteers realized that our immigration courts were working hard to expedite children through the process. This might have served the court, but certainly didn’t serve the children, many of whom were being deported without having the benefit of legal representation.
NCJW volunteers organized themselves to monitor the court and collect data about the so-called “rocket docket,” which information was eventually used in a national class-action suit on behalf of the kids. The court took notice and began to take a more thoughtful approach.
Later, these same volunteers helped develop workshops to teach immigrant families how to apply for asylum, to avoid returning to dangerous situations in their home countries.
We’ll never really know how many children were ultimately helped. One thing we do know: if even one life was saved, it was certainly worth the effort.
Three years ago, the Texas legislature was considering reducing the allowable rehabilitation period for patients suffering from traumatic brain injury. A worker in the field conceived of the idea of commissioning highly detailed photographic portraits of survivors of TBI, collecting the stories of the patients and their caregivers, and mounting a week-by-week campaign to send the photos to members of the legislature.
Funding was preserved. The photographs and the personal stories affected the legislators in ways words alone never could.
Now the Brain Injury Association of America is working on a nationwide campaign that we hope ultimately will result in broader exposure and then increased empathy for these individuals who have been injured in combat, in sports, through a momentary lapse of judgment, or through violence. Ultimately we hope to ensure that they have the support they need to lead the most productive lives they can.