Nashua works to grow its community; Coffee and Conversations events on tap

NASHUA – Nashua is continuing to work to strengthen the bonds in the community this month. Coffee and Conversation, a multicultural conversation hosted by One Greater Nashua’s Navigators, will be returning for the new year.

One Greater Nashua is a coalition of individuals and organizations in Greater Nashua that work to achieve social inclusion across the entire community.

The Navigator Program came out of the coalition, and is a group of individuals, some who are new to the country, and some who are long-term Nashua residents, who work to create safe and welcoming places in the city for cross-cultural dialogue. The program hosts the Coffee and Conversation events two times each month.

The theme of this month’s events, which are scheduled for Jan. 17 and Jan. 24, is volunteerism. Those who attend will be able to share past experiences of volunteering and learn how to be a volunteer in the community. The United Way of Greater Nashua’s Director of Community Impact and Chair of One Greater Nashua Liz Fitzgerald said resources will be provided for newcomers.

Meetings are typically twice a month, on the third Thursday at 2 p.m. at the Nashua Public Library and on the fourth Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. at the United Way of Greater Nashua. There are two different times to accomodate people who may be working second or third shift. The topics from each month are varied.

Fitzgerald said generally those who attend come from all walks of life. These meetings have helped connect people with jobs, built relationships among those who may not otherwise have met and they’ve helped give newcomers tips on how to adjust to living in a new country.

The founder of Navigator’s Coffee and Conversation, Galina Szakacs, who came to the United States 25 years ago as a refugee, said she wanted the Coffee and Conversation events to do three things: help newcomers economically, help newcomers become familiar with the community around them and to help them navigate where to go.

“The people that come in are in a new country, a new town, on a new street, are surrounded by a new language,” Szakacs said. “People come in and they are under so much stress, psychological stress.”

Szakacs said the program aims to navigate people through their needs.

“Our goal is to help these people move from asking simple questions to questions of belonging. What does it mean to belong? They can be who they are,” Szakacs said. These conversations are for everyone to learn from.

Szakacs said, “It’s not only they have to learn about us, we have to learn about them. We also understand when it’s new, as good as it can be, people feel afraid. We try to have a very human conversation,” she said. This has allowed those who have attended to learn more about other cultures and form relationships.

One Greater Nashua Navigator Robin Springer said, “We are learning from each other and finding that we have more in common than we have different. Our goal is to build relationships with people and to let them know that we are just people and we can talk about things and understand each other and learn.”

Springer added, “It’s not one-way teaching. It’s just about having a conversation…it goes a long way making Nashua a more welcoming community for everyone,”

The Navigator’s program is led by a council of leaders who represent different ethnic groups across the city.

“We don’t create leaders, we identify leaders,” Fitzgerald said. “We find them and help the connect with community resources… they have a passion to help people within their communities who are a little more shy, and it’s a stepping stone toward being more represented,” Fitzgerald said.

Everyone in the community is invited to join the conversations.

“People who have been here for so long can be surprised to find that there is so much diversity in Nashua, because they just don’t see it in their circles,” Fitzgerald said.

Fitzgerald said they created the coalition to include everyone in the community. She added, “Where are the voices that we are missing, where are the underrepresented voices and how can that help us in building a community that serves everyone?”

To learn more, visit http://www.unitedwaynashua.org/support-your-local-community/one-greater-nashua.

Grace Pecci may be contacted at 594-1243 or gpecci@nashuatelegraph.com.