Our Speaker, Margaret Costantino, is the Executive Director of the Center for Refugee Services which she helped co-found in 2010. She is a lifelong resident of San Antonio. By profession Margaret is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is retired from UTSA. Her former career involved assisting college students with career planning. She also taught for the Department of Counseling for 6 years. Margaret and her husband Joe have been married 49 years and are the parents of 3 adult children and 11 grandchildren all of whom live in San Antonio. Prior to World War II the US accepted refugees due to war. A lot of refugees are single parents who are raising children alone. Resettlement funding goes away in 4 - 6 months. One third of the volunteers at the Center are from refugee communities. Margaret described the struggles that refugees have living here and trying to assimilate to our culture such as learning about credit, insurance coverage, child supervision and child safety. There is a lot of support from refugees who volunteer. Currently they are trying to raise $2,000 a year to pay for translation services. In 2012 the Center awarded 115 scholarships. Since Margaret has been with the Center she has seen students get advanced degrees such as Masters Degrees and degrees in Medicine. "It's all about self sufficiency," she says.  The Center has a partnership with medical school psychology students. The process of resettlement is traumatic - refugees are afraid even though they are here legally. Some refugees are survivors of torture. The Nursing School Dental School and Medical Students have formed a Clinic at St. Francis Episcopal Church - it is faculty supervised. This is important because after 4 - 6 months services for the refugees go away including health insurance. The Center's budget is $70,000 per year - all else is donations. Harun Rashid, also with the Center, works with the Burmese community. He has lived here for five years and preparing to get his U.S. citizenship. Pat Tappmeyer, also at the meeting, spoke about being known in Nepal as point of contact for the Center. She organizes pick up of donated furniture, household goods and such to make sure the refugees get what they need.  Volunteers are needed due to the overwhelming number of refugees locating here. For more information visit their website HERE.
The Center for Refugee Services was presented with a check from our Club as well as a customary book that will be donated in honor of our guests to the Locke Hill Elementary School Library. Thank you for speaking to our Club today and for educating us about the Center for Refugee Services and the services that are provided.
Ken Donoughue pointed out that locally there is also a service called the Faith Based Initiative whose focus and vision is “To facilitate relational collaboration, active partnerships and networked services between the San Antonio faith community, government agencies, non-profit organizations and community groups towards improving the lives of families and communities in need.”  There is currently a waiting list for resources. It is set up based on zip code.