With nearly 300,000 Americans with direct connection to the island, Massachusetts is home to one of the largest Puerto Rican communities in America.
Massachusetts Parents United is an organization with our roots proudly planted firmly in the Latino community. And with powerful chapters in East Boston, Lawrence, Lowell and Springfield — frankly, our members are Puerto Rican. Somos boricuas.
Just a week ago a group of our members in Springfield were discussing what was unfolding in utter frustration and despair.
“We are going to need to make room,” said one of our elders. “Everyone in the entire city is going to need to make room.”
From there, a big idea was born. Massachusetts Parents United was founded on the idea of parents helping parents, parents empowered by information and parents taking action to make a better life for their children. Our members felt that while plenty of attention was being paid to support the relief efforts (at least by private organizations — don’t get me started about the disastrous federal response) we needed to get prepared to not just accept — but welcome these families into our already strong and beautiful Puerto Rican communities.
So that night, my two MPU Springfield parent organizers threw me in the back of a car and we started looking for available spaces for rent in the dark.
And they bribed me with amazing Puerto Rican food.
By 10 o’clock the next morning we had secured a location and started getting to work.
In keeping true to our core values as an organization, the MPU Regional Welcome Center was born. In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, The MPU Regional Welcome Center will provide our member families will immediately need support in welcoming their family into our communities, finding resources and helping their children navigate the complex school systems in Massachusetts.
Many of these children have just endured the most traumatic events of their young lives and are now be faced with new challenges as they build a life in Massachusetts.
Immediate connection of parents with resources to file for:
housing assistancefood assistanceemployment assistance
Comprehensive information on where/how to sign up children for school and options available, what materials are needed to register, book bags, school supplies, warm coats and winter boots.Document replacement information/resources – training and education credential transfersVoter registrationFEMA registration, workshops, clinics and supportMental health referrals and parent support groups
This is a big project. And we need help. We are depending upon our members and the strength of our community to make this center a reality so we can open our doors on October 15th. (Thankfully we have some good friends at Springfield College, Springfield Tech and Putnam Vocational High School who are already starting to help.)
The dream is to have a family walk in with nothing — and walk out with resources and a plan to begin again. For six months, six years or six decades.
These aren’t strangers. These are our families. We love you and are here for you.