The Center for New Americans has been a community-based education and resource center for immigrants and refugees in western Massachusetts for almost 30 years.  

And for more than a decade, the organization has mixed business and artistic expression by holding 30 Poems in November, a fundraising event where people write and read poems to raise money supporting the Center’s free classes and services.  

Producer Dave Fraser brings us more about the event and the work that CNA does in western Massachusetts. 


Read the full transcript:

Zydalis Bauer, Connecting Point: The Center for New Americans has been a community-based education and resource center for immigrants and refugees in western Massachusetts for close to 30 years.

And for more than a decade, the organization has mixed business and artistic expression by holding a fundraiser called 30 Poems in November, where people write, read, and raise money to support the Center’s free classes and services.

Producer Dave Fraser brings us more about both the events and the work that CNA does.

30 Poems for November Performer: I want to know how the sunrise speaks and the full moon turns your head.

Dave Fraser, Connecting Point: One by one, participants took to the podium to share their literary work.

30 Poems in November was launched in 2008 as an annual fundraiser for the Center for New Americans. Both experienced and novice writers participated, each crafting a poem a day throughout the month.

Laurie Millman, Center for New Americans: It’s an incredible concept that people contact people they know and say, “Would you support me? Would you sponsor me? I’m going to do this, you know, instead of running a race, I’m going to write a poem a day. Would you give me X number of dollars per poem?”

30 Poems for November Performer: I want to say thank you for these poems, for the promise to write every day.

Laurie Millman: Our goal was $65,000 this year.

And one of our friends who just loves poetry said, “How about you get to a hundred thousand? How about you raise your goal of sixty five thousand? And if you hit it, I will organize a match?”

Dave Fraser: Well, they did.

And with the help of that match, along with 103 poetry writers who participated this year, the organization more than met their goal, and at a time when services like this are needed more than ever, according to CNA’s director Laurie Millman.

Laurie Millman: We’re working with Catholic Charities and we’re welcoming Afghan evacuees, and in the last three weeks — three weeks — we have enrolled thirty one new students. Which is a lot for us, we’re a small program!

And that’s in addition to Haitian migrants, Guatemalan refugees, and all the other students that were currently serving in three different locations.

Dave Fraser: The event was held last November at the Center for the Arts in Northampton. Readers gathered in person, while others joined by Zoom to share their poems.

Christine Maribal, who immigrated to this country from the Dominican Republic when she was younger, was one of the participants who shared her poem.

Christine Mirabal, 30 Poems in November Performer: I had a hard time deciding which poem I was going to read and actually read a few to one of my friends just to hear myself and to get her opinion.

And I finally chose one that, I think, fits for the Center for New Americans because the title is “Belong.”

I am a mere speck.
But, I too, have my place in this universe.
I too, belong.

Dave Fraser: Sarah Sullivan has been the event chair for several years.

Throughout the month of November, she organized workshops and offered online support to help inspire and motivate participants to fulfill their pledge of a poem a day.

Sarah Sullivan, Chair of 30 Poems in November: I had never seen where the Center for New Americans was, my first two years writing, until I had to come drop off a check or something. So, I wanted the workshop to be here in person.

And it was amazing, the gathering we had. The talent that you hear when you’re there, from — from youngsters and old relics are uh…it’s incredible

30 Poems for November Performer: Where do you walk? What do you want on the darkest day?

Laurie Millman: It’s just the most welcoming space you can imagine. And you do see people who are nervous and…but I think that it probably emboldens them, because the reception they get is so warm that they might feel less, you know, nervous the next time.

Dave Fraser: Amherst Middle School student Meribell Hidalgo shared a poem about her experience leaving her native land of El Salvador and coming to America for the first time.

Meribel Hidalgo, 30 Poems in November Performer:
My mom, my Tia, my abuelita and I were little our crying as we give each other the last hug.

I’m happy because I think I’m going on a field trip.
The new places that I’ve never seen seemed so beautiful.
When I came and I saw we were not going home, I began to panic.
But I knew that as long as me and my mom were together, we would be okay.

Well, I just kind of wanted to share my story and what was going through my mind when we moved here. Because I was pretty small, so I was pretty confused on the whole situation.

Center for New Americans Teacher: Can you spell washing?

Center for New Americans Student: Washing…

Dave Fraser: With the funds raised, The Center for New Americans can continue with its mission to provide under-served immigrant, refugees, and migrant communities of this region with educational resources to learn English, become involved community members, and obtain tools necessary to maintain economic independence and stability.

Laurie Millman: We’ll see people who start speaking five words of English and we’ll — over the course of several years — watch them, you know, achieve their, their version of the American dream, whatever that is, one step at a time.