Carly (Riman) Cai: A Participant From China
Written by Carly (Riman) Cai
My name is Carly (Riman) Cai from China and I speak Mandarin and English. Some of the hobbies that I enjoy are badminton, swimming and running and in the past, I participated in a half marathon in China. I value people, friends and family and my dream is to support them. I am someone who is always thinking of the capacity that I have to serve the community better. I believe that education is important because it changed my life and that is why I want to help people in their educational goals as a way of defining their destiny and supporting their dreams. Education can change the mindset and the way that people think. I studied telecommunication and Engineering in my country and worked as a high school counselor for 8 years where I would help students in planning their courses, extracurricular activities and applying for university in US, UK, and Canada.
When I first arrived in Philadelphia, I felt lonely, bored and was also insecure and worried about my life. I would not go out after 6pm because I did not know people, the language, culture, or what people were thinking, it was hard for me. It felt like my quality of life was quite low and I did not have the confidence to live here. After the Immigrant Leadership Institute, being connected to Let’s Talk Philly and The Intercultural Wellness program, I feel safer and more connected here.
I was connected to The Welcoming Center by Qiwen Tan who works at Everest medical and is also part of the Participant Advisory Council who told me about English classes. My friend Jessica, who is a graduate of the ILI 5 Cohort recommended the Immigrant Leadership Program and I applied for the program. I received a text from Maureen, The Program Manager of ILI which was a good way to help me to remember when the program was going to start. I find emails stressful to reply to and may take time but with the text it was easy to remember and respond. In my country we do not use email to communicate as much as we use text through WeChat. She also called me and that also made a difference to have been able to make that connection.
At the beginning I was thinking of improving my English and learning about culture, but I found myself learning about autonomous teamwork that I appreciated, and it exceeded my expectations. ILI helped improve English, teamwork with people from different cultures, religions and language and familiarize with the community. I connected to Let’s Talk Philly and the Intercultural Wellness Program where I have been gaining more skills and connecting to more people and getting to know the community and reducing the feeling of isolation.
I agree with the mission of TWC because every staff tries their best to implement the mission. This has made The Welcoming Center feel inclusive and like a second home which has given me the confidence to stay in Philly. I am also planning to start my business next year. Philadelphia as a city has its own challenges but The Welcoming Center helped me in developing the desire to stay here. I am a graduate of the 11 Cohort of The Immigrant Leadership Institute Program which was a really helpful program, and the model of the program really works. I have seen a lot of nonprofits do things in their own way, but The Welcoming Center staff commit their heart and effort into their work. I have also been able to work closely with Manuel Portillo in the Intercultural Wellness program as a facilitator, which has been a great learning experience as well.
I am not only practicing the things that I learned at The Welcoming Center but am also improving. I became a conversation circle facilitator with LTP, organizing events and supporting in the 12 Cohort of ILI, and I am also a member of PAC. I now know how to prepare presentations; public speaking and I also know more situations and challenges that immigrants face and how TWC is supporting them.
Before The Welcoming Center I did not feel like I was part of anything and would walk by the side of the street but now I can walk in the middle of the street, be myself, speak loudly, confidently, and powerfully. It is the small things that have made a difference in my life, the connections, resources, and information. I was able to get information immediately where Maureen Smith and Eric Barragan helped me to solve a problem for me that was very important. It has also changed the way I do things because Chinese and American culture are different.
The Immigrant Leadership Institute program was my first program and was an important core part in this relationship. It helped me to connect, in a different way to speak, felt important and needed by someone because there was a lot of heart and effort. The core heart part in this relationship is the source that began all the good things like Let’s Talk Philly, Participant Advisory Council and the Intercultural Wellness Program that has expanded my community.
Being part of the Immigrant Leadership Institute was the source for me. A place where I felt important and that there is a place for me. I am now part of TWC, and I want to continue implementing The Welcoming Center missions and values. The PAC has been a good experience of learning and brainstorming through different perspectives and I believe that we can do more.
If I had not connected to TWC I would have tried to connect with different organizations. Before The Welcoming Center, I felt like a small piece of the US and not important and even if I disappeared, `
because I felt like a nobody.
The Welcoming Center helped me to shorten the time that it would have taken me to integrate into the US and find my way. I am sure I can do more but I know that I need opportunities and it takes time. The Welcoming Center made me feel important and now I have my own place in The Welcoming Center family.
One thing that I have liked about The Welcoming Center is the resources that are available to immigrants, and these have helped me in deciding to stay in Philadelphia and have the community that I want to support. At The Welcoming Center, I found my position in this community and gained a lot of skills, information and resources that taught me about American culture and how to work in a team with immigrants. I feel more comfortable to stay and work in Philadelphia as a result of The Welcoming Center
I would like The Welcoming Center to give more opportunities to the participants in the work they do or in the programs so that they keep coming back. The Participant Advisory Council is a great idea, and all the members have the ability and capacity, but we still have the quiet participants who still need support and opportunities.
I am very happy to be in Philadelphia because I love history. It is a city that is historical, where the history of the revolution, independence declaration, with all museums and historical buildings. It is an immigrant Welcoming city that I love.