A special part of my National Health Corps Florida AmeriCorps service term has been being able to launch my own wellness program at the New American Welcome Center (NAWC) at the DuPont YMCA. The New American Welcome Center at the DuPont YMCA helps immigrants fully integrate into American society and prepares receiving communities around Jacksonville to be welcoming and inclusive. By engaging local institutions and mobilizing community resources, the YMCA helps make the community a place where newcomers and immigrants can thrive and flourish.
The New American Welcome Center at the DuPont YMCA is 1 of only 17 NAWCs across the nation. I feel incredibly honored to be been a part of the development process of this location as it officially opened on March 18, halfway through my service term. Once it opened I knew I had to get more involved. I adjusted my service position so I could officially be a part of the health and wellness components of the NAWC.
When the NAWC opened I was surrounded by people from all over the world who were newly establishing in Jacksonville. They were from Venezuela, Colombia, Birma, Chile, Iraq, Congo, Iraq, Sudan, Cuba, and Afghanistan- places where economic security and livelihood are not as accessible. I was fascinated by the cultures, languages and global cooperation that was happening before my eyes.
Amber Dodge, the Senior Program Coordinator for the NAWC worked with me to develop a weekly wellness class for the members, as we identified a need within the community. To address this need and provide direct service to the NAWC members I teach a yoga based wellness class every Thursday from 1-2.
I begin every class with breathing exercises and setting an intention for the hour-long practice. Setting an intention allows the participants to think about who or what needs extra support in their lives. The intention could be for a friend, spouse, child, or themselves. Then we move through all kinds of yoga poses to challenge both mind and body to focus on the present. Every class flows differently, which is perfectly okay. There is a language barrier which sometimes makes it difficult for me to communicate exactly what I want the participants to do. But it makes me slow down and practice communicating with my body language and physical movements which are universal, the reason why I love yoga.
After class I am overjoyed by the responses I receive. The women are so happy after taking that time for themselves because many are not able to do so. Most participants are going through the citizenship process, learning English, raising families, and working. There is simply no time to focus on the present and their own well-being. I am so thrilled to have had this opportunity to work this population during my service experience and make a difference in the lives of immigrant families.
This blog post was written by NHC FL AmeriCorps Member, Corinne.
Corinne serves at YMCA Duval County as a Health Educator.