The WASH Project @ Westside Value Laundromat establishes an outlet to create & engage in art, music & literacy, as well as a neighborhood access point for information regarding a wide range of community services & cultural opportunities. From this effort we anticipate the development of a safe, small, yet dynamic center of local community life, a place that people of all ages & walks of life will come to; a place, that by the way it is designed & the way it is operated, will strengthen this neighborhood, while providing a model for future WASH Project efforts in neighborhood laundromats throughout the city.
Over the past five years approximately 30% of the refugees resettled in New York State have come to Buffalo – more than have been resettled in New York City – & the majority live on the West Side. Many arrive here from refugee camps in Burma, Thailand, Nepal, Kenya, Chad or Tanzania or where there have been limited opportunities for education.
Without the arrival of refugees, the population loss of the City of Buffalo & the Buffalo Public Schools during the past decade would have been much greater. Consider the following from an October 31, 2011 BELL Network report:
[O]ver the past decade the Buffalo Public Schools enrollment has declined by nearly 10,000 (42,941 in 2001-02 to approximately 33,000 in 2011-12), reflecting general population trends & growth of charter schools. However, there is one segment of the school population that has shown dramatic growth – English language learners. Over the decade the number of ELLs has grown by 61% (2,320 in 2001-02 to 3,736 in 2011-12) &the ELL population has increased from 5.4% of the total district population in 2001-02 to over 11% this year.
Ten years ago the first language of the vast majority of ELLs was Spanish (78% in 2001-02); however, today Spanish is the first language of only 38% & two languages with roots in Burma (Karen & Burmese) account for 24.2%. The majority of the Karen & Burmese speakers have arrived as refugees over the past five years. In fact, the recent growth in ELLs in Buffalo Public Schools is a direct result of the increase in the number of refugees being resettled here and, for the first time, the arrival of refugees who have chosen to migrate to Buffalo after their initial resettlement in other cities across the United States.
Helping this recent wave of refugees & immigrants thrive in their new home is a far greater task than the Buffalo Public Schools can meet. Certainly, there are multiple ways to address the myriad of issues facing children, adults & families as they struggle to put down roots & become self-sustaining & contributing members of our neighborhoods & communities. The WASH Project @ Westside Value Laundromat proposes one way to do this, & that is by providing free arts & learning experiences at the street level.
REGIONAL & LOCAL SHOULDERS
Houghton College, with its main campus located in rural Allegany County some 65 miles from Buffalo, is a small liberal arts college with an enrollment of approximately 1200 students. However, over the past 25 years the college has built solid connections in Buffalo, first on the East Side at the King Urban Life Center & King Center Charter School & more recently on the West Side.
The Houghton College Office for Urban Connections is located in the former Rectory at 172 Fifteenth Street in Buffalo, & the facility also houses the college’s City Semester program, summer interns & Wesley ServiceCorps, a program designed to give recent Houghton grads an opportunity to serve for a year or two after graduation with selected organizations & agencies in Buffalo, primarily on the West Side, to address issues related to poverty & improve the quality of life in the neighborhoods where the ServiceCorps members live & serve. Twenty-three members are currently serving with 11 programs at 8 organizations.
Buffalo AmeriCorps at the Belle Center
The Belle Center is home to Buffalo AmeriCorps, a program of the Corporation for National & Community Service! Buffalo AmeriCorps is its own entity based at The Belle Center & is separate from any other AmeriCorps program in WNY. The Belle Center offers innovative educational, social & community building services for children, youth, senior citizens & families living in Western New York.
Values & Rules