Friday February 8th, Missioning Prayer and Despedida (Send-Off)
This past Friday, over 100 leaders from IPL, OTOC, and the TPS Alliance of Nebraska gathered to hold a Prayer Service that celebrated both culture and faith for the 9 members of the Omaha community who are representing Nebraska at the TPS Summit in Washington DC from February 10—February 13. The Opening prayer and focus statement were given bilingually by Pastor Juan Carlos Veloso, along with Fr. Chris Saenz, who gave the Blessing to the travelers.
The group traveling to Washington DC was made up of 6 TPS holders, 2 seniors in high school who are the US citizen children of TPS holders, and a Creighton University student. The group flew to Washington DC on Saturday and is currently participating in advocacy, leadership training, and the March for TPS Justice on Tuesday, Feb 12.
Urban Abbey hosted three different Issue Cafes in the Month of February for leaders and community members learn more about relevant issues happening in Omaha.
Michael O’Hara from the Sierra Club (pictured left) spoke about the logistics of the city’s upcoming solid waste policy. Why do we need to care about the trash system? 1. It really affects the environment- methane outputs from landfills, trash trucks driving around, etc. 2. How many trash bins fit in your garage- we would like choices about what size and how many bins each household needs. The OTOC Environmental Sustainability Action Team urges citizens to contact their city council members to ask for community involvement in the planning process and for the council to be engaged and aware when reviewing and choosing a proposal. For talking points about how to contact your city council members, click here
Julie Kalkowski (pictured above) also came and presented about the importance of financial independence- and how that can actually affect your health. Julie has developed a Financial Hope program that is helps single mothers to become financially independent. Julie is currently recruiting 400 single mothers to join her program as part of a study about the effects of financial independence on health. Through Julie’s experience and expertise on financial independence she also encouraged the Predatory Lending Action Team to keep working to get limitations put on predatory pay day lending. Julie sees the affects of these debt cycles in her anti-poverty work. Want more information about Julie’s program, click here. To learn more about Pay Day Lending regulation, click here.
Jo Giles, Policy and Training Director for Strong Nebraska (pictured right), was OTOC’s guest speaker at the March 27 meeting of the Urban Abbey Series. The Coalition for a Strong Nebraska is a coalition of 85 non-profits who are committed to ending poverty through public policy engagement.
Ms. Giles biggest message was that non-profits can lobby. While the coalition does not lobby itself, it will train people in lobbying skills.
The discussion then turned to an overview of some bills being considered currently in the Unicameral in the areas of Property tax, Healthcare, Education and Civic Engagement. Ms. Giles noted that a big factor influencing the passing of a bill is the ability of the state to pay for it. As of Tuesday, Nebraska is experiencing a $200M budget shortfall.
Those bills that have a priority designation have the best chance of getting out to the floor. Sen. Vargas’s LB194 about Pay Day Lending has been named his priority bill, but has still not left the Banking Committee. We will have to wait and see if it will make it to the open floor.
For additional information on learning how to lobby, receiving a weekly update on legislation, or finding a tutorial on using the legislative website, look here.
The Institute of Public Leadership (IPL) wants to make it clear how grateful we are to you, our supporters. Your contributions of time and money are making a difference, and we would like to show you specific examples of how this is true. Here is a list of people who our donors have invested in this year:
IPL Board Member Allison Latenser shares about the meaning of IPL in her life: ““The training I have received from IPL has enabled me to form a connection with different kinds of people from all over Omaha. Together we have discussed our concerns and our hopes for this city. We have identified possible action steps and informed ourselves through research. We have worked hard on our presentations and have approached our elected officials as a team to ask for their support in making positive change for the community.”
Your generous donations and a grant from the Omaha Community Foundation have made possible a new IPL project to teach refugees about their rights and responsibilities as tenants. Our goal is to teach refugees who are renters how to address housing issues so they have decent, safe homes and good relationships with their landlords. Understanding your rights so you can better stand up for them is part of the education philosophy of IPL and what we are teaching leaders to do.
IPL has hired three bilingual interpreters who were refugees and who have been in Omaha for several years as leaders. Our interpreters are Lah Wah who speaks Karen, Netra Gerung who speaks Nepali, Gilbertine Niyonzima who speaks Swahili and Kirundi. They give presentations to refugee communities in schools, churches, and resettlement agencies. One of the three, Gilbertine Niyonzima, shares her thanks for this program: “I am thankful to IPL for funding this education program for new refugees in the US, which teaches tenant and landlord responsibilities in a language he/she understands. I am privileged to help them understand things I was so confused about a couple of years ago. I am glad this program allows me to help my community and get paid to do it.”
This year IPL has had many interns thanks to your support. Over the summer, three students from Creighton worked with OTOC action teams and Executive Director Joe Higgs to learn about organizing and researching issues. We also had an intern from University of Nebraska Law School who helped develop the Refugee Rental Rights and Responsibility trainings. They all did amazing work and we hope to continue working with students in the future.
Our newest intern is Greta Carlson who is a part of the Lutheran Volunteer Corps, a service corps organization that places young people in organizations throughout the country. She will be a part of IPL for an entire year and is working full time with us. She arrived in August from Texas and has been involved in Refugee Trainings, IPL leadership, OTOC Action Teams, communications, meeting people and building relationships, and learning how to handle the cold. Here’s a small snippet of why Greta is thankful for IPL:
“I am so thankful to IPL for giving me a job! But this is a lot more than just a job for me. I’ve truly enjoyed building powerful relationships, learning about the method of social change that IPL teaches and OTOC uses, and practicing skills I can use for the rest of my life no matter what I am doing. This whole year is like a training session for my life!”
Your support enables IPL to invest in many training opportunities for community leaders. We are part of several nonprofit coalitions which help us be more effective in our leadership and policy development work.
You help us send leaders each year to national training programs for community organizing through the Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) and Interfaith Education Fund, our own national network of community organizations. These week-long workshops allow emerging leaders to meet leaders from all over the US and learn the concepts and best practices of community organizing.
All of these training opportunities lead to personal growth for the individuals who attend and better equip our organization with the skills we need to have a real impact on the common good in Omaha. Here is a message from Charles Gould who is on the OTOC Housing Revitalization Action Team, OTOC Leadership Team, and attended an IAF National Training earlier this year:
“Thank you for the opportunity to learn more about organizing. I got to go to a national training this year where I learned the value of sharing the principles of organizing. I’m glad to be a part of an organization that is building community in a meaningful way by teaching those leadership skills.”
The Institute for Public Leadership gives leaders the tools they need to gain power and have a voice. This year, San Andres Lutheran Church, a Spanish-speaking church in South Omaha, became a dues paying member of OTOC.
Many members of the church are originally from El Salvador and have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), an immigration status given to Salvadorans living in the US in 2001 after an earthquake made it unsafe to return. Many of the 250,000 Salvadorans with TPS in the US have made their home in Omaha for the past 17 years. Now, the current administration may be ending TPS for people from El Salvador.
IPL trained leaders have been getting to know these new Leaders and are helping them share their stories through newspaper articles, community meetings and dinners so that they can grow the number of their allies fighting for their right to stay in the country. IPL is helping this group learn to better organize and have a collective voice. Pastor Sergio Amaya of San Andres Lutheran shares his thanks for the support and training:
“I am grateful that IPL and OTOC are helping Omaha get to know our Salvadoran TPS community. We have begun building relationships that will make our community stronger and a better place for us all. Our Salvadoran families are hard working, and most own their homes and have children who are citizens. We need your help to be able to continue to make Omaha our home.”
The need is greater than ever for leaders who can work in their communities to spark conversations on difficult issues and to work to reach real solutions to problems.
You can do something to help fill that need — donate to the Institute for Public Leadership during its Holiday Campaign and your tax-deductible contribution will immediately get put to work. The IPL Board has set an ambitious yet reachable goal of $20,000 for the Holiday Campaign.Your donation, large or small, can help reach that goal by Dec. 10.
With your support, IPL can continue to empower diverse and emerging communities by developing leaders with skills training, research and organizing support. IPL, with its affiliate organization Omaha Together One Community, then helps those leaders act for justice and the common good.
With your support, IPL can continue efforts such as
Training refugees to be leaders in their communities on the rights and responsibilities of being tenants
Working with Omaha and neighborhood leaders on projects such as the Land Bank to make our city a better place to live
Organizing forums where citizens can get information on issues
Bringing together diverse communities with events like the Interfaith Solidarity Service and Refugee Culture Night
Donating is easy. You can click on the button below that will take you to the secure online donation site or you can mail a check to Institute for Public Leadership, 3624 Lafayette Ave., Omaha, NE, 68131-1363.
IPL has teamed up with OTOC and the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance to organize an Interfaith Solidarity Service on Thursday, August 4th from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. at Augustana Lutheran Church (3647 Lafayette Ave).
This will be an evening that will include song, reflection and prayer from Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other faith communities in Omaha. Leaders from diverse congregations will gather together to reflect on our common humanity, appreciate our different faith traditions and customs and re-commit to working together toward creating a peace-filled community for all families.
The Interfaith Solidarity Service will be led by Rabbi Steven Abraham of Beth El Synagogue, Rev. Jan Peterson of Augustana Lutheran Church, Rev. Tony Sanders of Koinonia House of Worship and IMA, Rev. Marshall Johnson of St. Luke United Methodist, and other clergy and lay leaders.
Following the service, there will be refreshments and an opportunity to create new friendships in the Church Hall. Please let us know you will be attending by clicking this link.
IPL helped OTOC leaders organize an Issue Conference on February 27 at First United Methodist that was attended by 150 people from 41 congregations and community organizations. IPL helped OTOC leaders prepare eight different workshops. Twenty five to 40 people attended each of the leader lead workshops.
All of the workshops invited those present to take “next steps” to improve our community. Five of the workshops were organized by leaders of existing OTOC Action Teams and these leaders distributed information to participants about what they have learned about the issues they are working on together. The Five existing OTOC Actions Teams are:
Housing and Community Revitalization
Health Care for the Working Poor
Support for Immigrants and Refugees
Improving Behavioral Health Care in Omaha and the State
For a copy of some of those handouts, click on the link below:
IPL is helping Leaders of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) organize an Issues Conference on Saturday, Feb. 27 from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 Noon at First United Methodist Church. OTOC and Community leaders will lead eight interactive workshops that will focus on issues affecting Omaha families. Each workshop will end with practical Next Steps that we can take to make progress on the issue.
There is no cost to attend, but to register for the Issues Conference, please click on the link below:
OTOC leaders at the 2014 Issues Conference briefly explained their workshops to 150 people who attended
Death Penalty: supporting repeal of the death penalty in the November referendum
EPA Clean Power Plan after the Supreme Court Intervention: How to advance clean power in Nebraska while the CPP is on hold due to the Supreme Court action. Duane Havorka and OTOC leaders will lead this information discussion and generate strategies.
Mental Health: filling the gaps in behavioral health services in Omaha
Violence in the Community: seeking potential solutions for neighborhood safety
Neighborhoods and Housing: determining property tax values, abandoned property
OTOC and OPPD: organizing within OPPD to assure a sustainable, smart energy future
Refugees and Immigrants: advocating for fair treatment of immigrants and refugees
Health Insurance for Working Poor: using Medicaid funds to insure workers in the coverage gap
The schedule for the Issue Conference is:
8:30 am to 9:00 am Gathering and registration, coffee, juice and light snacks
9:00 am to 9:30 am Meeting information and short training on organizing
IPL worked with leaders of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) to hold three summer training sessions about the principles and practices of community organizing. Over 90 people over 35 congregations and community organizations attended at least one of the sessions and average attendance was over 50 for the three sessions which occurred on the 2nd Monday of June, July and August. The final training session was led by IPL Director Joe Higgs and several OTOC leaders including Carol Beaty, Kevin Graham, Gloria Austerberry and Karen McElroy. The final session focused on:
Developing a Core Team of Leaders: How you identify and develop a team of leaders in your own church or organization so you can work with them for the common good.
Preparing for a listening campaign: How can we organize a series of small group meetings to listen carefully to the issues that affect the families in our congregation and community? OTOC plans to engage in a listening campaign this Fall and will hold a meeting in each member institution to review the work of OTOC Action Team and determine if there are new issues and new leaders who want to work for the common good.
OTOC is an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation and leaders who are active in OTOC member institutions are welcomed to go to regional and national training programs in community organizing.
The next IAF National training program scheduled is set for:
Monday, Nov. 16th at 3:30 p.m.
Until Friday, Nov. 20th at 12:00 noon
Loretto Spirituality Center Littleton, Colorado
Cost is $700 for room and board for those staying at the Spirituality Center
Seminars for Leaders involved in Organizing
IPL is affiliated with the Interfaith Education Fund which organizes educational seminars with leading academics about topics that are relevant to leaders involved in community organizing. The next scheduled seminar is February 5 and 6 in Dallas, Texas with two leading theologians:
Charles Mathewes is Carolyn M. Barbour Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Virginia where he teaches religious ethics and religious thought. He is the author of Evil and the Augustinian Tradition and A Theology of Public Life, The Republic of Grace, and Understanding Religious Ethics.
Luke Bretherton is a Professor of Theological Ethics and Senior Fellow, Kenan Institute for Ethics at the Duke Divinity School. He is the author of Hospitality as Holiness: Christian Witness Amid Moral Diversity. His recent work has focused on faith-based organizations, the church’s involvement in social welfare provision, community organizing, the treatment of refugees, and fair trade.
Contact the IPL office is you are interested in attending either of these great opportunities to learn.