International residents get a helping hand
Because relocating to a new country isn’t always easy, the Cranberry Township is offering a helping hand through Cranberry W.I.N. — Welcoming International Neighbors — a volunteer program dedicated to helping international visitors and new residents by offering basic English tutoring and other personalized assistance.The service not only helps those needing aid in basic or conversational English skills, but also assists with everyday types of questions, such as where to shop, how to use public transportation or even where to buy a car, said Chelsea Puff, community projects administrator for Cranberry Township.”It’s to help them get acclimated to the community and new environment,” Puff said. The volunteer service began in 2010 after the township hosted a focus group studying what types of challenges international residents in the area face.Currently, there are about 20 volunteers who help with the program, many of whom have previously lived abroad so, Puff said, they know what it’s like to live in a different country.”They’re looking at it as the same perspective as these international residents,” she said.One of those services is a basic English tutoring program, which can be fashioned to an individual’s language level or specific need.Ben Rosier, 25, is one of the volunteers who help out with language tutoring.He said each person has different needs. Some may already have a good understanding of the English language and may just need help with grammar or new words.The Mars resident started volunteering with W.I.N. earlier this year after reading about the need for volunteers in a previous edition of the “Cranberry Journal.”He already had some experience in the area. He provided similar assistance to individuals at the Pittsburgh Chinese Church downtown. This was another opportunity to do the same in the local area.”I wanted to take the opportunity and serve anyone coming into the area,” said Rosier, who works at Westinghouse Electric Company in Cranberry.He currently is tutoring one person who found out about the W.I.N. service through the Cranberry Township website, he said.Puff said that volunteers do not have to be certified to tutor, but at the same time, participants will not come out of the sessions with an English Speaking Language certification.International residents and visitors can connect with W.I.N. and other programs on the “Diverse Cranberry” website, Puff said.They can be linked to cultural events, professional networks, educational programs and more.It even offers a new international resident checklist that includes information on completing all necessary paperwork, vaccinations, housing, obtaining a driver’s license, and utilities, according to the website. There’s actually a large number of international residents in the area, partly due to the Westinghouse Electric Co.’s new headquarters,which draws in many workers from other countries, according to W.I.N. volunteer Deane Lavender.He, along with his wife Jane, has been helping out with the group since its inception about two years ago and said they are currently investigating ways to reach out to these individuals. “We try to come up with creative ideas,” said Lavender, a Cranberry resident.He agreed that Cranberry website is the best way to get in touch with volunteers.”There’s a good amount of resource material for people,” said Lavender, a former pastor of Plain Presbyterian Church in Cranberry. Lavender, 79, said that different volunteers have different expertise that can be beneficial to new international residents.For example the group has access to an attorney who specializes in international law and immigration, which is perfect for new residents with any questions.For those seeking language assistance, Puff said there’s an online application form, which helps volunteers know what level of speaking experience a person has prior to their tutoring session.Puff said they’ve gotten good feedback so far.”Everyone has been positive in terms of the interaction they’ve had,” she said. To contact Cranberry W.I.N., call 724-776-4806, ext. 1020; visit the township website, www.cranberrytownship.org ; or email [email protected] . For information on The Diverse Cranberry program, visit www.cranberrytownship.org/diversecranberry .