WAWAC is registered in the state of Washington and operates mostly in the Snohomish counties , King and Pierce. These 3 counties serve as home to the over 20 thousand West Africans in the state.
West Africans Live and work in Washington
College students received grocery & logistical assistance in 2020 from GTP
K1-K12 students served by GTP
The mission of WAWAC is to Connect West Africans in Washington with local resources and bridge the gap between us and the wider community, promote West African culture, inform and educate Gambians to discover their potentials and facilitate communication in the use of information technologies and work of arts for the attainment and discovery of their talents.
The vision of Washington West African Center (WAWAC) is to see a vibrant, dynamic and sustainable creative civil society sector engaged in qualitative practices in the media and arts in their own right, as well as in a manner that contributes to development, human rights and democracy and to eradicate poverty in The Gambian community in Washington.
The Issues Confronting Our Society
We are a 100% immigrant community from West Africa (The Gambia, Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Guinea, Burkina Faso, Code De Voire , Benin).
A number of people in our community are undocumented and have no formal education. This makes it hard for us to have jobs that can take care of our basic needs.
Access to firsthand information in our native languages is also a big challenge for us, due in part to the fact that most of our languages are not written.
Because most of the information communicated via mainstream media is usually in English, which is a second language to us, members of our community have difficulty understanding the messages. It is easy to confuse the information they need to know with the myths, misconceptions, and misinformation circulating through social media.
Most of the members of our community work in the hotels, food and hospitality industries, hair salons, and rideshare. Others work at home health care facilities and support disabled adults, children, and people with underlying medical conditions. They are in the front lines of workers affected by Coronavirus. A good number of us especially the men and women over 50 years also
have underlying medical conditions and therefore have to quit their jobs or cut their hours drastically so as to protect themselves and their families. Divorce rate is high in our community and we have a lot of single moms struggling to raise their kids by themselves.
Families of undocumented immigrants often find themselves in very dare situations. Some Kids have one or both of their parents arrested and detained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement for breaking minor laws such as traffic offences etc. Because they are undocumented, they often end up in deportation proceedings. This puts the kids in very vulnerable situations. Some get taken away to foster homes or their lives are turned upside down as they start to go through real hardships living with one parent (Mostly women). These single moms go through very difficult moments as they try to work, take care of the kids’ needs and fight a legal case to get their spouse out of the criminal justice system or from being deported back to Africa. This makes it difficult for their spouse to not only worry about themselves but buying phone cards and internet megabytes to stay in touch with their loved ones. For all the above reasons, a lot of families in our community are affected by COVID-19 directly and indirectly.
What We Do
Since 2017, we have been organizing programs and activities for our community throughout the year, such as our monthly grandma’s hangout and adult learning classes in English, Maths and Arabic, annual back to school get together to support for K1-K12 students and their families, food assistance, bill payment and other cash assistance for College going students and other community members, cancer awareness and advocacy, Sounds of Africa festival, immigration advocacy, help to fill out or apply for jobs and other benefits, interpretation and translation services, the celebration of local holidays, and general awareness on pertinent issues affecting our community. With a grant from the 2020 Census, we were able to do a lot of advocacy about the 2020 census that led our community being counted.
Since COVID-19 hit Washington State earlier last year, the demand for our services has quadrupled and our regular program had to change. We started adopting new ways, such as holding virtual meetings, organizing grab and go instead of sit-down dinners, organizing a drive-through back to school instead of our regular get together at a local park.
With timely support from the Community Foundation of Snohomish County, Group Health Foundation, Community Transit, Philanthropic Northwest, Building Changes, Washington Arts, All in Washington, UW Bothel, Leadership Tomorrow and Sno-Isle Lybrary, we opened an office in Lynnwood where we provide relevant new services such as distributing facemasks, hand sanitizers, gloves, and other COVID-19 prevention and protection gear, grocery assistance, medical and utility bill payment, Adult learning and Literacy program, Kids After school program, Youth internship program, Traditional Marriage counseling, Transportation services, Interpretation and translation services, Help to apply for jobs, unemployment, WIC, Food stamps and other benefits, Scan, fax, print, photocopy , filling out forms or sending emails, FREE access to computer, internet and phone, Diversity and cultural awareness programs, Gathering and distribution of clothes, electronics, appliances and supplies to needy families both in Washington and Africa. In a nutshell, we serve as a one-stop center where West Africans in Washington call their home. A place where they can come and get connected to local resources. If we don’t have it, we will find it.