CENTRAL AMERICAN RESOURCE CENTER- CARECEN

Rating: 4.67 stars   3 reviews

Issues: Homeless & Housing, Human Services, Immigration

Location: 1460 Columbia Rd Nw Washington DC 20009 USA

Mission: The D.C. metro area?s Latino immigrants, the vast majority of whom can be characterized as low-income, include both new arrivals and more-established families. The former continue to need immediate, direct services such as help with their immigration status or in gaining access to public services in what are, to them, unfamiliar systems of city and state governments. Meanwhile, the population of longer-term Latino residents still evidences insufficient development, with the highest high-school dropout rates, most crowding in their homes, lowest median wages in the area, lowest number of people with health insurance, and so on. Latinos are also underrepresented in the local political system. CARECEN meets the legal and social service needs of new Latino immigrants and facilitates their transition to life in the United States, provides Latinos with the resources and leadership skills necessary to promote community strengthening and development, and supports the creation of wealth and assets in the community through economic development efforts. Since all staff members are bilingual, and more than half are members of the Latino community, CARECEN serves its clients in a culturally comfortable atmosphere.
Programs: ? Legal Services: over 4,500 individuals yearly are helped in filing for residency, work authorization, citizenship, and many other immigration-related matters. ? Community Support Services: provides orientation on and access to social services, performs translations of letters and documents, helps resolve misunderstandings or disputes with employers, landlords, or vendors, and makes referrals to other agencies. In addition, victims of violent crime are assisted in gaining access to compensation from the District?s programs and in dealing with the judicial system if a case goes to court. Talks and workshops on the importance of filing tax returns correctly and on time are given throughout the year to clients in CARECEN?s waiting room, to our citizenship students, and to groups in the community. ? Citizenship and English as a Second Language: at least 200 people each year take citizenship classes that help them prepare for the U.S. naturalization exam and interview. Approximately 80 of these opt to take the related ESL module to increase their ease in the English language. ? Housing and Community Action: individual renters may be helped in resolving disputes with their landlords; first-time low-income homebuyers are counseled on how to qualify for a mortgage and may receive financial literacy training. More than 80 tenant associations to date have been organized and trained to take action to have their apartment buildings brought up to code; in cases where the owner is selling the building, the associations are helped to qualify to purchase it, or to get the best buy-out deal if they choose not to purchase. ? Civic Participation: Tenant associations and community action groups have gotten involved in coalitions and community action projects to fight discrimination, to improve legislation that affects them, and to get involved in local decision-making spaces like advisory neighborhood coalitions. CARECEN trains the community and participates at its side in advocacy on issues of importance to the Latino community, along with its community membership base which is several hundred people strong. ? Within all of our programs, CARECEN disseminates much-needed information to individuals and in community forums or at events on topics such as housing, employment, financial counseling, job opportunities, immigration laws and employee rights.

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Community Reviews

Rating: 5 stars  

I had the pleasure of working at CARECEN as an intern in the Community Support Services department during the summer of 2013. I can’t believe the time has flown so quickly, but as my summer at CARECEN comes to an end, I want to sincerely thank the entire staff for giving me the opportunity to work with and learn from this amazing organization. Coming in, I had no experience working in this field, but now I can say I have learned so much about the Latino community in this area, the problems they face, and the possible solutions that we can facilitate. I feel much better prepared to pursue a career in this kind of work – thank you all for taking a chance on me and teaching me so much. I have gotten everything out of this experience that I had hoped and more, and I hope I was a help to you all along the way. Thank you again for allowing me to learn, grow, and challenge myself alongside this wonderful organization that does such important work, it’s been an unforgettable experience!

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2013

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Review from Guidestar
Rating: 4 stars  

I became involved in CARECEN in 2011 when I volunteered as the summer communications intern. I worked on the newsletter, helped with letters requesting donations and helped standardize the staff’s email signatures. I found the posting for a communications internship through idealist.org, but I had previously noticed the organization while passing through Columbia Heights.

I was immediately surprised by how small the staff was. I was also impressed by all the work they got done! CARECEN was originally founded to serve Central American refugees of conflicts in the 1980s. It now provides low and moderate-income Latinos in the DC area with a wide range of services, such as legal help in response to unjust firings, citizenship education classes and legal advice about immigration issues. CARECEN’s evolution from a focus on refugee issues to the comprehensive development of DC area Latinos shows how CARECEN is united with the DC Latino community. CARECEN doesn’t hold itself above or apart from the people it serves. Rather, it works both for and with its clients.

I had never volunteered or interned for a nonprofit, so I really appreciated getting to see how a nonprofit functions. My supervisors always seemed interested in what I was doing, even when their hectic schedules made it hard to find time to meet. Finally, I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute to such a valuable organization. I expect to see CARECEN grow alongside the Latino community for many more years.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I've personally seen clients benefit from CARECEN's services.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

Add a few more staff members to manage the workload; my bosses shouldn't work through their lunch breaks! Seriously.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

A lot

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Quite well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

What one change could this group make that would improve your volunteer experience?

Make it easier for the volunteers and interns to get to know each other. I enjoyed the workplace more once I switched from working alone in an office to working in the same office as another intern.

Did your volunteer experience have an effect on you? (teaching you a new skill, or introducing new friends, etc.)

I learned more about how nonprofits are organized, such as how they fundraise. I also became more familiar with the Columbia Heights neighborhood of DC and became friends with the intern who worked in the same office.

How did this volunteer experience make you feel?

It made me feel that I contributed to a meaningful organization which would have a long-term impact beyond my immediate involvement.

When was your last experience with this nonprofit?

2011

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Review from Guidestar
Rating: 5 stars  

When I first volunteered at CARECEN three years ago, I didn't intend to spend a significant amount of time with the organization. I was going to teach one session of citizenship classes to meet my school's community service requirement, and be done with it. Looking back, I can't help but laugh. What was originally intended to be ten weeks turned into what I know will be a life-long committment.

During the last three years, I have not only taught six ten-week sessions of citizenship classes, I have also provided volunteer translation and interpretation services, assisted with administrative tasks, and helped staff citizenship workshops. I also had the amazing opportunity to participate in CARECEN's semester-long Citizenship and Civic Participation Internship, where I was able to get to know the organization from an even more in-depth perspective.

CARECEN is a "one-stop shop" for immigrants in the Washington, DC area. In addition to citizenship-related services, the organization also addresses housing, employment, and discrimination issues. The impressive legal staff handles all kinds of cases, though the majority have to do with clients' immigration struggles. Each person employed by the organization demonstrates daily the kind of passion only felt by the truly dedicated.

I am proud to say that they have passed some of their dedication on to me. Working with CARECEN has inspired me to pursue my legal education, where I am following a concentration in immigration law. And even though I now live several hundred miles away from Washington, DC, I still keep in regular contact with the staff and many of the clients. Although I cannot be at CARECEN in person, I continue to provide assistance with translations, and anything else that I can do from a distance.

This non-profit organization embodies the highest standards of excellence, and is one of the greatest assets available to the immigrant community of Washington, DC. As a volunteer, intern, and friend, I give CARECEN my highest commendation.

I've personally experienced the results of this organization in...

I have not only been on the volunteer side of CARECEN, but I have also received assistance from a client standpoint. Last year, when I needed help to bring my husband to the United States, the legal staff at CARECEN was there for me. They assisted me with a lot of difficult paperwork and walked me through the immigration process step by step. It was such a relief to know that I had well-informed legal minds helping me to navigate a system that I barely understood. I owe them all so much gratitude.

If I had to make changes to this organization, I would...

The only thing I would do to change CARECEN would be to give them more funding!! CARECEN does great things, and they would be able to do so many more if they had more capital.

Would you volunteer for this group again?

Definitely

For the time you spent, how much of an impact did you feel your work or activity had?

Life-changing

Did the organization use your time wisely?

Very Well

Would you recommend this group to a friend?

Definitely

Was this review helpful? 
Review from Guidestar