Florida Weekly Column

Hope for the Future

Hope for the Future

by Rev. Robert V. Selle, CEO, Amigos en Cristo d.b.a. Amigos Center
2015 grantee of the SWFL Community Foundation

This summer, as the SWFL Community Foundation gears up for the next competitive grant cycle, we have asked our 2015 grantees to send us their stories. Here this week we learn from Pastor Selle, Amigos Center. The Foundation is pleased to partner with these change makers. If you have ideas and hope for the future, we’d love to hear from you at [email protected] or @SWFLCFnd on Twitter.

Imagine waking up each morning knowing that your life is terrible and filled with fear with no hope for a solution in the future! That’s the realization faced by many immigrant women living in our community and suffering domestic abuse but not reporting it to the authorities for fear of being deported and separated from their children who often remain with the abuser.

Amigos Center has partnered with Abuse, Counseling & Treatment (ACT), SWFL Community Foundation, United Way, and the Bridge Fund to start a new program named “Esperanza Para el Futuro” (Hope for the Future). In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act. Part of that program provides for a U Visa that removes the fear of deportation for women suffering domestic abuse (and other crimes) by authorizing them to temporarily live and work legally in the USA. After 3 years they can request permanent residency and work authorization and continue on their pathway towards citizenship. They earn these benefits by cooperating with authorities to prosecute the perpetrators.

Lindsay Ray, Amigos Center staff attorney since March 2015, is experienced in legal matters of domestic abuse and prepares the necessary and complicated documentation required by US Customs & Immigration Services to give these women “hope for the future.” ACT refers qualified victims after they’ve gone thru counseling and SWFL Community Foundation, United Way, and the Bridge Fund have provided startup financing. Amigos Center’s services are especially important since Florida Equal Justice, the not for profit agency formerly providing these services, was forced to close 1 1/2 years ago due to lack of funds. Now, the only alternative to Amigos Center’s service is an expensive law firm who may charge $5-10,000 or more–money these women don’t have.

Quoting a recent victim/client (upper profile and name withheld for protection) who asked Pastor Selle, Amigos Center CEO, “Please say a prayer for these documents which give me hope that I’ll finally achieve my American dream. I love this country!”

To find out more about the program or to offer your financial or other assistance, please visit the web site at www.amigoscenter.org. You’ll also find information on other AC ministries including Family & Country Based Immigration, English as a Second Language, Food Pantry, Clothing Pantry, and Plantings of Lutheran Immigrant Churches.

About the SWFL Community Foundation
As leaders, conveners, grant makers and concierges of philanthropy, the Southwest Florida Community Foundation is a foundation built on community leadership with an inspired history of fostering regional change for the common good in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Community Foundation, founded in 1976, connects donors and their philanthropic aspirations with evolving community needs. With assets of more than $88 million, the Community Foundation has provided more than $61.2 million to date in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves. Last year, it granted more than $2.9 million to nonprofit organizations supporting education, animal welfare, arts, healthcare and human services. It granted $782,000 in nonprofit grants including more than $551,000 in regional community impact grants and additional $450,000 in scholarship grants. For more information, visit www.FloridaCommunity.com

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