For more than 200 years, Utica has had a rich tradition of welcoming immigrants and refugees into our city and incorporating their culture into that of our own. At first, there are resources available through the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees to assist with finding apartments, education, health services and employment. After the 90 days however, there is no steady support for refugees, many of whom struggle with language obstacles, poverty, the consequences of trauma, and cultural misunderstandings that continue to arise for years after their resettlement. This project addresses the problem of refugees’ adaptation to their new home, lack of services past the first 90 days, and the opportunity for the wider community to learn from and build relationships with our multicultural neighbors. MUCC extends the welcoming feeling beyond the initial period, and facilitates integration and maintenance of culture.
Since April of 2014, we have been able to give many hundreds of community members of all ages space and opportunities to study, learn, celebrate, dance, work, and serve their community. We have won several awards for community involvement through our work, through the Fort Stanwix National Monument, the Utica Zoo, and the Genesis group. Refugees and non-refugees have experienced an entirely new world through their interactions with MUCC. As an information hub, we have evolved to solve problems daily for people who have fallen through the cracks. As an afterschool drop-in center, we have conducted tutoring and participated in a youth employment program, and we continue to do so. Our college partnerships have provided internships and opportunities for collaboration with college faculty and students. We partner with dozens of organizations and groups to provide the following programs: traditional and contemporary dance lessons, Regents prep tutoring, intergenerational reading, summer camp, wellness programs (yoga, ice skating, curling), healthy food preparation, arts and crafts, mentoring, career counseling, gardening, and camping. MUCC runs a donation center that now serves hundreds of people every month. Finally, we have hosted or organized a multitude of artistic, musical, and cultural events that help educate and inspire people throughout the region. We have learned how to connect community members with a range of opportunities to share their stories with Utica and beyond.