The Restoration Initiative for Culture and Community is a non-profit establishment located in Mid-City New Orleans. A faith based organization; it began one and a half years ago from Canal Street Church as a means of outreach to the surrounding community. The RICC has since been active in addressing problems facing the inhabitants of the nearby neighborhoods and families. It is led by a president – Dr. Page Brooks – who is also Canal Street Church’s pastor. Other members of the staff include Michael Hitch who serves as the Executive Director, Carla Briggs who serves as the Special Events Coordinator, and Cardinal Seawell, the Program Director.
Though new to the Mid-City community, the organization is not shy about tackling some of the biggest issues in the New Orleans community. From family and marriage counseling to afterschool programs to keep children engaged in beneficial activities, there exists a range of avenues for approaching problems. Despite having several components to the plan to heal families, the RICC maintains a holistic approach. As Executive Director Michael Hitch states, they “don’t focus on one problem. Rather, we look at how we can help one family. If the RICC can provide that support, we are thrilled to do so. In the event that we are not, we seek collaboration with partner organizations to ensure maximum assistance.”
One of the new aspects of the RICC’s service to the community is in my opinion one of the most important endeavors that this city should take on. The program is an English as a Second Language (ESL) course that meets on Thursday evenings, helping Mid-City’s Hispanics learn the language and therefore increase their functionality in the city. There are already a few similar projects throughout the city, but this particular one has aspects that separate it from others. Not only does it provide knowledge of English, it also caters to the spiritual needs of any Christian student. The RICC provides an environment of acceptance and support beyond the material being taught. If they wish, students can speak with a pastor or minister or share prayer requests. The building of such a community fosters a sense of belonging to the program, creating a space besides their day jobs to interact with others as well as each other.
My Public Service Internship is with the ESL program at the RICC. So far, all has been great despite the challenges. My supervisors and I are a team and are working together to solve some of the problems that are arising as we go along.
As of now, we still have not started with the book curriculum, because we are finding that most of the students have extremely low levels of knowledge of English. I did not expect to be teaching courses during this internship, but I now find myself researching, developing, and executing lesson plans for each week. My knowledge of Spanish has been a great asset, allowing me to teach the course content in Spanish, but having students answer questions in English, practice the vocabulary, and taking small quizzes. This way, I can effectively communicate the rules of the language to them.
In that way, my academic knowledge (Spanish in this case) applies tremendously to the internship. I am able to use what I’ve learned about it to teach others about English. When I can make a connection between words and phrases in English and Spanish, I use those opportunities because it provides students with a little bit of hope. It is very important to dispel the notions that learning English is complicated and close to impossible so that they maintain the determination and motivation that will drive them to be successful in their language acquisition so that they may ultimately be successful in this country.
The RICC’s language program also has a Citizenship course component that provides students with material to study for the citizenship test, in addition to study tips and help. At this point in time, however, none of our students are at that point in their immigration journey so we are putting that portion on hold.
Working with this wonderful program allowed me to share what I have with others who need it. Most importantly, I have been learning a lot about the community and the individual students. My goal is to make myself available to individual students as someone who is not just their teacher, but also a friend, especially since a few of them are around my age. I have been able to identify with them by sharing my immigration story and giving some encouraging words about the process.
What I really appreciate about the RICC is its holistic approach to solving some of the problems that arise in the community. Making the well-being of the person or family as a single unit the priority – as opposed to the problem being the priority – is the first step to a deeper level of healing in New Orleans. All in all, this site does more than can be expressed in a few words, but it has the potential of being a vital pillar of the Mid-City neighborhoods.
The RICC’s Summer Camps
The RICC’s free-of-charge summer camps are an important part of their goal to provide for
a community that, in more ways than
one, is lacking in resources.
New Orleans and Family
Based on 2000 United States census data, family households account for about 60.01% of New Orleans’ population, and of those families, 29.24% have children under 18 years of age. Surely, these numbers changed after Hurricane Katrina, but this is an illustration of why taking care of New Orleans families is important to the RICC.