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Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Heroes of the Week: Burmese Immersion Project Volunteers

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Bob Heffernan noticed as a landlord that many of his Burmese refugee tenants were largely isolated from the larger Milwaukee community, the children’s school grades were woefully inadequate and their English proficiency was not progressing. Heffernan was compelled to help them and in 2011 he and Becca Schultz co-founded the Burmese Immersion Project (BIP). According to the Association for Asian American Studies’ 2014 report titled “Invisible Newcomers: Refugees from Burma/Myanmar and Bhutan in the United States,” from 2002-2011, Burmese made up the largest refugee group resettling in the U.S. (88,348 refugees out of 515,350).

BIP, an entirely volunteer-run nonprofit, is striving to help better integrate these refugees and offers tutoring to refugee youth grades one through college, providing homework help for all grade levels and subjects, as well as structured English as a Second Language (ESL) activities throughout the school year. During the summer, BIP provides science activities, remedial math lessons, field trips (transportation is provided to all students) and ESL programming. BIP currently serves 55 students and has more than 35 volunteers.

“The Burmese Immersion Project has undoubtedly the best volunteer corps in the city,” said Becca Schultz, executive director of BIP. “In 2012, we received the Inspire by Example Award from the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee for ‘Best Volunteer Team.’ Our volunteers work tirelessly year round.”

This nonprofit is seeking volunteers who have a background in math to help with summer programming, as well as those interested in learning how to utilize the organization’s ESL software. Monetary donations, which will help BIP serve more children, can be mailed to the Nonprofit Center of Milwaukee (2819 W. Highland Blvd., Milwaukee, WI 53208) with BIP in the memo line. For more information, visit bippaw.wordpress.com or contact Schultz at 414-391-0935 or rschultz@bipmilwaukee.org.