About IWP


Immigrant Well-being Project 

The Immigrant Well-being Project (IWP) is an annual 9-month long program that pairs students from the University of New Mexico with Spanish speaking immigrant families in the mobilization of community resources and mutual learning. Students enroll in a two-semester course (earning nine credits), in which they learn about advocacy, how to apply it when working with families and refine their skills through structured reflection and weekly supervision. The IWP uses the RWP model, and runs in conjunction with RWP, to help universities and community organization build on immigrants' strength, value their perspective, and improve their mental health, integration, and ability to contribute economically, socially, and politically. The IWP is implemented by university students in partnership with community leaders and consist of weekly learning circles and advocacy.  


When RIWP expanded to including Spanish-speaking immigrant families in 2017, we established a strong partnership with four community organizations that were well-established in Latinx immigrant communities in New Mexico and shared RIWP values:
Centro Sávila (provides linguistically and culturally relevant, low-cost, quality mental health and preventive services within a holistic framework);
Encuentro (offers Adult Education, Career Development, and Home Health Aid classes with a strong focus on leadership development, collective transformation, and community engagement to build skills for economic and social justice); 
New Mexico Dream Team (empowers multigenerational, undocumented, LGBTQ+, and mixed-status families to engage, empower, and mobilize youth to advocate for positive policy changes at the local, state, and national levels, thereby dismantling systemic oppression); and
New Mexico Immigrant Law Center (provides access to legal services, advocacy, and 
education within a cross-institutional, intersectional, and collaborative approach, 
increasing civic engagement of the immigrant community to achieve justice and equity 
for low-income immigrant communities).  
The Class 
To participate in the Project, students must attend a 1-hour orientation with the instructors, which introduces the structure of the course and the expectations for student participants. The IWP course, entitled Health and Social Inequalities, is a two-semester course that totals 9 credit hours. Because the students will be partnered with refugee or immigrant families, they must agree to take both semesters of the course before they can enroll, and there is a strict mandatory attendance policy for the course. (Students can take the class for credit in Sociology, Psychology, Anthropology, Honors, and others.)   

In the Fall semester, students spend the first 3 months (August-November) in the classroom learning about practical skills and theoretical concepts related to the refugee and immigrant experience, such as cross-cultural communication, teaching English as a second language, community resource mapping, needs assessment, advocacy, social inequality, and more. 

Toward the end of the Fall semester, the didactic shifts to the practical as Learning Circles and Advocacy begin. Students are paired with refugee or immigrant partners and they begin to work together on goals for the family, as well as engaging in cultural enrichment for all. The Project continues through the end of the Spring semester with weekly advocacy and supervision, and the Learning Circles. 

Learning Circles 

Learning Circles, which are based on a similar model at the Jane Addams School for Democracy, begin in November and are held each week for two hours at a local community center. (Many community centers offer computer classes, fitness classes, and other free activities that immigrant families can utilize as an added source of support). The Project provides child care and transportation for immigrant families. 

The evening begins with a light meal and social time for all, after which Cultural Exchange time offers a forum for refugees, immigrants, and students to learn from each other through discussions aided by interpreters and facilitators. The cultural exchange format fosters improved inter-generational respect and communication by involving refugee and immigrant elders, parents, and children. Some topics explored include cultural norms/expectations, discrimination, child discipline, traditional art/music/clothing, etc. Others relate to cultural celebrations such as Thanksgiving, New Year’s, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Over time, students and partners are invited to share topics of mutual interest that emerge during their time together. Refugees and immigrants both learn from and teach students in the Learning Circles, and through these processes, refugees’ and immigrant cultures, experiences, and knowledge are valued and utilized in the promotion of their well-being.