School No. 9 teacher Danie Orelien-Armstead spearheaded a gift giveaway on Dec. 21 as part of a greater effort to help recent Haitian immigrants who are facing difficult circumstances and were in need of extra holiday joy.
The grab-and-go event was held at the Linden Multipurpose Center on John Street. Children and their families were able to select from a wide selection of age-appropriate toys and gifts, donated by the Mayor’s Youth Commission.
Orelien-Armstead was assisted by Superintendent Dr. Marnie Hazelton, Mayor Derek Armstead, and Dr. Pamela Jones, head of Communities in Cooperation (CIC), a human-services organization serving Union and Essex counties. In addition to distributing gifts, the event aimed to give the children and families a connection to Linden Public Schools.
The event was part of a larger effort to help members of the Haitian immigrant community who face significant hurdles in their new country, including a language barrier; anti-immigrant discrimination; food, shelter and clothing needs; and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“These families are proud and good people, who do not want handouts,” said Orelien-Armstead, who teaches English as a Second Language. “Rather, they only seek to earn through education and hard work what we already have: an incredible life in an amazing country filled with unprecedented opportunities. Like us, they too are self-starters. One 10-year-old girl is not only learning English at record speeds, she is also teaching her entire family English through YouTube instructional videos.”
Orelien-Armstead and CIC established a fundraiser to financially support these families.
Funds raised will be used to pay for legal assistance to obtain Temporary Protected Status (TPS) with work authorization; find training and employment opportunities to work and sustain their families; assist with housing needs once employment is secured; connect immigrants with federally funded health care facilities; connect children to appropriate educational institutions; and teach English as a Second Language.
Tax-deductable donations can be made online at cic-nj.org/donate or checks can be made payable to “Communities in Cooperation Inc. – Humanitarian Haitian Relief Fund” and mailed to 201 Lincoln Street, Linden, NJ 07036.
“Please open your hearts and help us reach our goal,” Orelien-Armstead said. “Your donations will significantly contribute to this effective long-term, multilayered solution. Your contribution will help these resilient people become the best versions of themselves.
“Thank you for doing your part and helping make our Linden family even bigger. We are so strong when we work together!”