“We’re waiting for additional support to turn out another round,” says Shana McCormick, executive director of The Skyline Charitable Foundation
“I’ve never met people who want to work so much – who are so determined to become self-sufficient,” says Shana McCormick, executive director of The Skyline Charitable Foundation (TSCF), describing the migrant community served by the Asylum Seeker Relief Program (ASRP) the Foundation created last year.
From April 24 to May 3, The Skyline Charitable Foundation's Asylum Seeker Relief Program (ASRP) trained 32 migrants; from May 22 to May 31, another 37 – this time women comprised approximately 20% of the total. Photos: The Skyline Charitable Foundation
McCormick found herself in constant contact with a mass influx of migrants from South America – primarily Venezuela and Ecuador - and some from West Africa in the summer of 2022 through TSCF’s RAP4Bronx food relief program. Men, women, and children bused and flown from Southern states were arriving en masse at the Port Authority and area airports.
“Often they hadn’t eaten for days and were living in very poor conditions,” says McCormick, noting that RAP4Bronx partners and collaborates with Rethink Food, Hungry Monk, Fundavenyc and other nonprofits and grass roots organizations that provide food, shelter and services to individuals and families in need. She began to organize talks with City agencies to find ways to make relief efforts more sustainable and “make the dollars stretch.”
McCormick soon discovered that many migrants had experience in construction, often as laborers, sometimes as architects or engineers. “Though the type of construction they’d performed was different from local work, it required similar skills,” she says.
It didn’t take long to put the components together: As TSCF has access to a state-of-the-art, fully equipped training facility with a crew of bilingual instructors at the Andromeda building in Long Island City, she decided it was time to act. “We had resources that could change people’s lives. It’s our duty as human beings to activate,” she says.
McCormick took “a leap of faith” and organized three rounds of training in August and September 2022, two weeks each for 40 individuals at a time. A total of 120 men and women (15% of the trainees) received 62 hours of hands-on instruction to meet OSHA and NYC DOB requirements for Site Safety Certification.
Many in the construction industry are immigrants themselves
“The program lifted the spirits of everyone who walked through the doors of the facility. There were super stressful days, but it worked out,” says McCormick. Several Skyline Restoration employees, some of whom were Asylum Seekers themselves at one time, took the podium to share motivational stories of experiences they endured and overcame as they worked their way up.
“Many in the industry are immigrants themselves – by helping out they were paying homage to all those who are seeking a better life,” she says. The need for work authorization was a hurdle, yet proper training was essential for the safety of the trainees, other workers, and all New Yorkers.
When McCormick tried to get funding to launch another round in the fall, she found her pleas fell on deaf ears until, just days before Christmas, the Mayor’s Office of Immigrant Affairs called to ask if more migrants could be trained if the City contributed $25,000.
“Yes!” was her immediate response. Though the amount wasn’t sufficient, an anonymous donor filled in the gap for two more rounds. From April 24 to May 3, ASRP trained 32 migrants; from May 22 to May 31, another 37 – this time women comprised approximately 20% of the total.
The majority of those who completed the training have found employment and either filed or are close to filing work authorization. The program is currently on hold. “We’re waiting for additional support to turn out another round. There’s an extensive wait list,” says McCormick. “I’ll do it ten times over if I can!”🀰