Translate »

Partner Agency Feature – Nancy Molina, Refugee and Immigrant Hospitality Outreach

Maddie Shaner at ’19-20 Orientation

For many JVs the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic sadly meant an end to their service placements, but for Maddie Shaner (’19-20 Gresham, OR ’18-19 Billings, MT), Hospitality Coordinator for the Refugee and Immigrant Hospitality Outreach (RIHO) program at The Rosewood Initiative in outer SE Portland, life just got MUCH more “interesting.”

I’m the RIHO program director, and in normal times Maddie and I host a twice-weekly English language learning group at the Rosewood community center. Each class session sees 20-30 refugee and immigrant English learners arrive at Rosewood with their children (RIHO provides a program for children of participants as well), all part of the busy and vibrant RIHO community of about 60 Rohingya, Bhutanese/Nepali, Middle Eastern, and Latin American families. Virtually all the families live with significant poverty and we face language barriers for communication.

With the arrival of the COVID-19 virus and closure of the community center, Maddie and I decided to tackle the challenge of finding ways to continue the strong community connections and English learning, as well as to address the new issues related to participants’ loss of income.

As the day-do-day point person for RIHO’s activities, Maddie has been on the front lines of the RIHO program’s “pivot.” Her days look much different now, but she is as busy as ever. Instead of welcoming participants to the community center, answering their questions, connecting people to resources, and playing with the children, she is spearheading RIHO’s effort to keep everyone connected and address their immediate needs. She has organized the program participants and volunteers into an online community through Facebook, and helped conquer the technological challenges to get there. Thanks to Maddie’s thoughtful and caring persistence, most of the RIHO community members are actively involved in the group, and the volunteer teachers are outdoing themselves coming up with creative videos and instructional materials. Maddie and I use the Facebook group to share information, resources and opportunities needed by our virtual community.

Maddie serving with RIHO from her remote office

Maddie also takes the lead in distributing donated items like hand sanitizer, masks and art/school supplies for kids (she has become an expert in navigating the myriad of confusing apartment complexes in East Portland), and has spent MANY hours on the phone and video chat helping families get connected to their kids’ online learning sites. She has delivered food boxes to families with no transportation, helped people apply for unemployment and other safety net programs, and keeps close track of those community members in the greatest need.

Maddie’s experience is providing a great example of how a JV member can creatively continue to meet the mission of an organization in the face of huge change. I firmly believe RIHO would not be functioning during the pandemic without Maddie’s talents, flexibility and commitment, and her work will ease the effort to restart the program once the virus is gone. Most importantly, she continues to make a tangible difference in the lives of community members at the most risk during the shutdown.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Translate »

Upcoming Virtual Events

Get to Know JVC Northwest

Thursday, October 28 | 7:00pm ET / 4:00pm PT

Join us to learn all the basics about a year of service in the Pacific Northwest, including where you can serve, what you might do, and how to apply. Our Recruiter, Zayna, will also share her experience as a JV in both Alaska and Montana. Finally, we’ll open it up for an informal Q+A.

Zayna Abusada

JVC Northwest Recruiter

Zayna Abusada (Ashland, MT ’17-18, Anchorage, AK ’18-19) was most recently a JV in south-central Alaska serving with immigrant and refugee English-Language learners as the Academy for Citizenship and Civics Support Specialist with the Alaska Literacy Program (ALP) in Anchorage. Zayna first served with Indigenous students on the Northern Cheyenne and Crow Reservations. Originally from Iowa City, Iowa, Zayna went on to earn her undergraduate degree in History and Theological Studies with a minor in Middle Eastern Studies at Saint Louis University.

Catch Zayna at an Event Near You!


10/5/2021Pepperdine UniversityVirtualCareers with Social Impact Fair
10/6/2021Saint Mary’s College (CA)VirtualCareer & Internship Fair
10/7/2021Loyola New Orleans/UNOVirtualJoint Fall Job & Internship Fair
10/7/2021Spring Hill CollegeVirtualBadger Career Expo Day 2
10/13/2021Gonzaga UniversityIn PersonPost Grad Service Fair
10/13/2021Ohio UniversityVirtualGovernment, Nonprofit, and Service Fair
10/16/2021Ignatian Family Teach-InVirtualBreakout Session and Exhibiting
10/18/2021University of DaytonVirtualBeyond UD Fair: Post Graduate Volunteer Programs
10/20/2021Xavier UniversityIn PersonPost-Grad Service Fair
10/20/2021Boise StateIn PersonCareer Fair
10/21/2021University of DaytonIn PersonPost-Grad Service Fair
10/21/2021UC Santa BarbaraVirtualSocial Service Fair