Volunteer Spotlight: Francesca Thomas

Francesca Thomas: Volunteer, Board Member
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
9 years
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I have met a couple who escaped from Cuba va Venezuela and through the jungles of South America; I met a young man from Iran who was imprisoned for his political views; I met a doctor from Iraq who used his only allowed bag to transport his medical school books; I met a family from Eritrea who served us coffee and popcorn as a way to thank us for assisting them; and I have met lots of lots of my Arizona neighbors who share their hearts, their time and their treasures to build community with our new refugee neighbors.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
I started volunteering with the organization because it was one of only a few places where I could take all my children, even when they were younger. Every delivery felt, for us, like a little trip around the world, meeting people, hearing of their experiences, sharing in their culture. It made our world both bigger and simultaneously more connected. I have continued to volunteer and financially support the organization because I have sene the difference it makes in the lives of families who have endured unimaginable hardship, and because I know that the experiences I have through my interaction with these international neighbors makes me a better, more understanding person.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I am the mom of 3 boys. I love to read, knit and travel, especially to my family in Italy and Switzerland.
What secret powers or talents do you have?
If I told you, they wouldn’t be secret anymore! A skill I have that isn’t quite so secret is my ability to speak Italian, French, and a little German and Spanish.

June 20, 2015

Flag of Cuba.svg    The first family we will visit is from Cuba. The family consists of a husband (37) and wife (28). The couple left Cuba almost three years ago, and flew to Ecuador. They lived in Ecuador for over two years before they crossed the border through Mexico, and requested asylum in the United States. The wife was a lifeguard in Cuba and the husband was a violinist. He had to leave his violin in Cuba. He hopes to have his violin shipped to him soon. This family is living with other family members who arrived a month after their resettlement in Phoenix. The husband’s brother, his wife and their two boys (ages 13 and 2) also live in the apartment. The 13-year old was able to attend school for a little while before summer break, and he enjoyed it. The husband and wife are working. They hope to improve their English and move on to jobs that are similar to the ones they had in Cuba. They are happy to be here, and safe, living with their extended family.

Flag of Cuba.svg    The second family we will visit is also from Cuba. Both the mother (29) and the father (30) are internal medicine physicians. They have a five-year old son. The father left Cuba to do a medical mission in Venezuela. He escaped the mission, and sought asylum at the United States Embassy. He had to travel to Colombia before was able to travel to Miami. When he arrived in Miami he was able to request reunification with this wife and son. The family has been in Arizona for one month. The parents are happy to be in Arizona. They both hope to be able to practice medicine again one day. It is a long and costly process to verify their medical training, and to earn the appropriate certification to practice in the United States. They plan to work on their English skills. In the interim the father has secured employment in a hotel. They are anxious for their son to begin school in August so he can make some new friends.

Flag of Somalia.svg    The last home we will visit is shared by our client, a young man from Somalia (age 29), and his two roommates. The young man escaped the violence in Somalia in 2004 when he was just eighteen years old; he left the country alone. He first went to Kenya and then on to South Africa. In South Africa, he learned some English and was able to secure work as a truck driver. He has been in Arizona for about 6 weeks, and is studying to improve his English skills. He hopes to drive a truck again one day, and is happy to be safe here in the USA.

Thanks to The Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, We Can Get A New Truck!

It is with great excitement that we announce The Welcome to America Project is the recipient of a grant in the amount fo $45,500 from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust. The funds will be used for the purchase of a new box truck.

During her career, Nina Mason Pulliam shared her financial success and business leadership skills with many charities. She was particularly sensitive to human needs, animal welfare and environmental issues. “She had a keen awareness of challenges that face our community and would take great pride in the outstanding work being done by organizations like The Welcome to America Project,” said Carol Schilling, Trustee chairman. “Through her Trust, we continue to build on her legacy which clearly reflects her heart for philanthropy.” The grant to The Welcome to America Project represents one of 23 awarded to nonprofit organizations in Arizona by the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust during the first of two grant cycles this year. Since the Trust began its grant making in 1998, it has awarded more than $121 million to 443 nonprofit organizations in Arizona.

The acquisition of a new truck is one of WTAP’s 2015 strategic initiatives, and the receipt of this grant is a major stamp of approval for our organization. The board and the staff at The Welcome to America Project are grateful to the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and to all of you who support the work we do. Thank you!

Staff Spotlight: Jack Bigus

Jack Bigus:  DriverFullSizeRender
How long have you been volunteering with WTAP?
I have been working for WTAP since August of 2008, I volunteered. from 2005-2007
Tell me about some of the people you’ve met while working with WTAP?
I have met hundreds of people and the volunteers have always been the best.
Why do you choose to donate your time to WTAP?
I liked the intimate experience when I volunteer.   I took the job when Carolyn called and asked me if I was interested.
Describe an experience you had while volunteering that made you realize you were making a difference.
The smiling and happy faces at a delivery. as a job…it is the best…I feel I make a difference every Thursday afternoon when I choose and pack the furniture for that weekend’s delivery.
What do you do when you aren’t volunteering?
I go to the gym, yoga, and I bowl.
What secret powers or talents do you have?
Can’t trick me…if i told you they would no longer be secret!!!!