My work as a family physician over the past few decades, has highlighted for me the reality of health disparities for these groups of people. We know that people of color in the United States have far worse health care outcomes than their white counterparts: higher rates of preterm labor and infant mortality, worse access to health care, higher rates of death for similar disease processes (such as cancer, asthma, heart disease, HIV and diabetes) and the list goes on. So, I ask myself, as I am sure many of you do, what can I do to be part of the solution and not simply another part of the problem? A central part of the answer for me has been to join the already incredible work of Multicultural BRIDGE right here in our community.
BRIDGE is closing out its tenth year of celebration and celebrating the fruition, as a co-founder, of a vision of what our community needed. In one way it was to close the gaps of services for new immigrants and very specifically value women and women of color’s labor, contribution and value to our community. But in a larger way it was to foster a sense of humanity, justice and interconnectedness.
“To live anywhere in the world today and be against equality because of race or color is like living Alaska and being against snow.” William Faulkner
I was introduced to Multicultural Bridge by Natalie Shiras, my classmate from College who was the Pastor of Church on the Hill in Lenox MA. At first I was incredulous that there was racial discrimination in the Berkshires, but I was told otherwise. As an immigrant who has been bullied both in France and in the US, I feel it is important to protect the rights of all people, regardless of the color of their skin, or their origin. I am proud of the work of Gwendolyn and congratulate her and Multicultural Bridge on their 10th Anniversary. Yeou-Cheng Ma
To you, Gwendolyn, and the committees, I send good wishes for a GREAT event which I think will be wonderful for all. I trust it will reward your good work in bringing Multicultural Bridge to is tenth year. I lectured in Japan recently and spoke reverently of W.E.B. Du Bois and your community work.
June 18, 2018
Karen came to BRIDGE through Construct Inc., located in Great Barrington.
She needed to supplement her income due to a recent separation, which had left her with sole custody of her child, and a lot of debt. Construct Inc. informed Karen about Multicultural BRIDGE and how they could help her stabilize during her life uncertain times. Karen had no idea how expansive BRIDGE’s ability to help her would be.
Prior to Karen’s arrival in the US, she had secured an MBA in Finance and worked at a bank for eight years. In order for Karen to pursue her career in the states, BRIDGE helped Karen create a resume for the local market and apply to banks in the area. Karen has now been working at a local bank for two years.
BRIDGE also helped Karen throughout her divorce. Karen’s ex-husband was more familiar with the legal system and he used that against Karen. With the help of a lawyer that BRIDGE had provided, Karen was awarded full custody of her daughter. Karen and her lawyer also ended up becoming good friends and remain in regular contact to this day.
Additionally, Karen was unsure as to her citizenship status and how it would be impacted by the divorce. Luckily, BRIDGE helped Karen get another lawyer, sent letters to vouch for her about getting the green card, and after a year fighting, USCIS gave her permanent residence in January 2016. Karen now has hope for the future and is looking forward to the rest of her promising life.
In late 2015, Greylock Federal Credit Union began investigating options for a Diversity Training program to offer our managers. Multicultural BRIDGE’S Cultural Competency program was hands-down the best training option offered in the marketplace.
Greylock selected BRIDGE’s program because their training focuses on many of the topics and issues that Greylock employees assist our members with on a daily basis. We also selected the program based on the incredible knowledge and experience Gwendolyn Hampton VanSant brings to the classroom. She has many certifications and life experiences that truly make her a subject-matter-expert and community leader.
In 2016, Gwendolyn delivered BRIDGE’s Cultural Competency program to over 60 Greylock Federal Credit Union managers and supervisors. The full-day program was packed with activities to facilitate learning and insight. Managers were encouraged to use the information when selecting new products or services at Greylock, and determining which vendors to conduct business with.
In 2017, Greylock delivered a condensed version of the Cultural Competency program to approximately 200 staff-level employees. Participants engaged in many of the same learning activities as their managers did, with less focus on how to integrate these topics into the workplace.
In order to remain culturally competent, Greylock has also contracted with BRIDGE to lead roundtable discussions with our managers two times per year, focusing on topics that we face as an employer and as a financial services provider. This year, the topics are Immigration Considerations and Generational Considerations. Much of the discussion is driven by participant questions, with no advance notice. Gwendolyn has proven once again to be an effect resource who carries a wealth of knowledge on a variety of topics. She’s able to answer our questions with ease and share complex, detailed information that helps to ensure our employees are better equipped to serve the community at large.
Greylock Federal Credit Union is a proud partner and supporter of Multicultural BRIDGE and the programs they provide our communities.