Esther James is the Financial Opportunity Center Manager for the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services located in Houston, TX. The organization creates opportunities for refugees, immigrants, and underserved residents to achieve their goals for self-sufficiency and improve their quality of life.
by Twins of Media
Tell us about your role with the Alliance organization and how you feel it has helped those impacted by Hurricane Harvey.
I have coaches that I work with and we have what is called a bundle service. We do employment, financial and income support coaching. The latter is government assistance where people apply for food stamps and medical help. There are clients we have that don’t know the process or what they may qualify for so we also have someone who works as a financial coach. Under financial coach, we provide budgeting and credit counseling with many different services as well. We have credit builder programs that we offer; there are quite a bit of clients that don’t have a credit history or they have run into some credit problems in the past, like misuse of credit. Clients can work with us to rebuild their credit. We also have a match savings program. If a client wants to go to a technical college or university, they can save up to $500 and we will match $4000. There is also small business micro loans up to $35,000 for people to either start their own business or grow their current one. We have a lot of different financial services to help our clients grow in the area of finance. There are so many different avenues where they can take part in our services. With employment, we offer interview and resume help as well as job search and training. Example: Certified Nurse Assistance training (CNA), we host here at the Alliance and AutoCAD for clients interested in drafting, architecture or engineering.
Alliance for Multicultural Community Services helps client’s to find a career they love. The Financial Opportunity Center offers programs such as Certified Nurse Assistance training and AutoCAD for those wanting to enter the field of drafting, architecture and engineering.
What is the success rate of your clients who have participated in these types of services? Do they come back to volunteer?
We have what you call bridge courses. The first 3-weeks is soft skills training; customer service, how to write emails and financial literacy. The other 3-4 weeks clients go to an academy to do the hard skills training to become a CNA. This requires taking a state exam. The Alliance has a high success rate of CNA’s who pass and afterwards we provide job placement. The AutoCAD program is a highly professional career. It is a 10-week course where many go into drafting and engineering outside of the oil and gas industry. We even have people from outside the United States take the course when their degrees from their country are not equivalent to the requirements here.
Since our clients are usually lower-income they tend to work a lot so they don’t necessarily come to volunteer. We do have people who say, “Sure, I don’t mind speaking to the next class about how much I love the training or how I overcame some barriers.” Some of our past clients refer their family members so there is a lot of word-of-mouth business we receive.
Photo: Alliance for Multicultural Community Services/Facebook
What other programs through Alliance, would you like to see in place to help the community?
I will say we are already headed in that direction with a 5-year (long-term) plan. We are expanding our Financial Opportunity Center to reach other areas. The agency as a whole is a Refuge Resettlement Agency, but we’ve been expanding to other areas outside of Houston. We’re looking to get into Montgomery, Fort Bend and Alief counties and other places that still need help. We have been doing a lot of outreach and talking to other organizations to let them know the services we offer. We can then partner with the different organizations within those counties to get people the help they need. As of right now, a lot of people have transportation issues. We work to find ways to reach people who are not able to come to us by allowing them to complete the intake forms online. Many of the courses are online as well. We are trying to cater to people with certain barriers without turning them away. The foundation as a whole has gone into others areas to continue to help with the Harvey relief. The Third Ward area have homes still damaged by the hurricane. It is not only monetary assistance, but also people who need jobs. The different departments in Alliance are working together to holistically help the people who come through our doors.
What has been your most successful program helping clients?
It’s hard to say because a lot of the departments provide so much. For instance, the ‘Resettlement Department’ helps to pick up client’s from the airport. The team arrange housing and jobs well before the people in the program arrive. Often working on the weekends to get things done. The departments within Alliance act as a ladder in terms of when the client’s complete one area they trickle to the next. When they arrive to my area we focus on how we can turn the job they have into a career. From there, my team and I start the process to help our client’s find something they love to do instead of it only being a job.
When you think about the word ‘help’ and ‘giving back’ what comes to mind?
Help means something that is sustainable. You are giving someone the tools so then they can feel confident and empowered to continue those principles on their own. We don’t only want to help when someone is in a crisis situation, but we want to help them with resources where they will be okay a month or years from now.
For those who have yet to come across your wonderful organization how can they connect?
You can find us through our website allianceontheweb.org. We are on Facebook and Twitter and encourage people to like or follow our page. People can also contact us directly for inquiries and we can refer you in-house or to a partnering agency that can help.
Source: Connect The Dots PR
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