August 04, 2020
 
 
A LETTER FROM OUR FOUNDER, JAGDISH VASUDEV

I immigrated to the United States in 1970. With an advanced degree in finance, I was able to get a job at Chemical Bank in New York City, where I worked hard and quickly rose through the ranks to become a Vice President in just six years.

When I moved with my wife and two sons to New Jersey in 1976, I started volunteering for our local Indian cultural organizations. As a local community leader, I was often approached by community members seeking advice and help with personal and professional matters. I noticed that most of the people I advised during that time were reluctant to solicit professional help to either avoid the stigma associated with discussing family problems with outsiders or simply because they did not know where or how to seek professional help.

On September 13, 2001, I received a call from a friend who asked me to accompany her to visit a young woman whose husband was missing in the 9-11 attack on the World Trade Center. As we were helping her deal with her tragic loss, 11 other Asian Indian families affected by the tragedy also reached out for help to work through the complex process of accessing financial support offered by several social service agencies. While it was challenging to balance a demanding full-time career while supporting these families need, the work was rewarding and I was deeply moved by the experience. After months of volunteering to help the families of the victims of the Sept 11 tragedy, United Way enlisted me to manage the Family Advocate Program established by Governor James McGreevy. The program helped 700+ families in New Jersey who suffered the loss of a loved one. After leading the program for a year and I realized that immigrant families faced cultural and language barriers, which prevented them from utilizing the government-funded support services they so desperately needed.

The New Americans of New Jersey was established in 2003 as a non-profit organization under the IRS Section 501 (c)(3) based on my personal and professional experience as family friend, community leader, program manager of the Family Advocate Program, and above all, as a New American myself.

Over last 17 years, we've focused our efforts on the following areas:

Health Literacy: The term ‘health literacy’ means the degree to which an individual has the capacity to obtain, communicate, process, and understand basic health information and services in order to make appropriate decisions.

We partnered with Healthier Middlesex and National Network for Libraries of Medicine (NNLM) and found a very reliable resource in the community i.e. Librarians from Public Libraries. East Brunswick Public Library took the lead and created a program called "Just for the Health of It". Thanks to Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the program was expanded to other libraries in Middlesex County.

Immigration/Citizenship: We have a close working relationship with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) as well as the New Jersey Chapter of American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)

We have been holding workshops at the Public Libraries in Middlesex County to educate community members about the U.S. Citizenship Process. In addition, in collaboration with AILA, we held many events in New Jersey to help eligible applicants complete the 23-page application form for submission to appropriate USCIS office. All the services were offered free ofcharge.

Know Your Rights: We have been working with New Brunswick Tomorrow, National Immigration Law Center, Reformed Church of Highland Park and many other social service organizations to share the information with the Community members.

Health Insurance: We have been working with the Center for Medicare and Medicaid since 2010. We have been holding Enrollment Sessions for the last 6 years at various locations. The U.S. Department of Human Services, in recognition of our work has designated me as the Champion for Coverage.

Cultural Humility: As a member of the New Jersey Statewide Cultural Competency Coalition since its inception, I have made culture sensitivity and cultural humility awareness and training a priority for NANJ.

Jagdish Vasudev

Founder, Director

 

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