WRAP participants visited our daffodil field in 2019.

Thanks to generous support from the Greater Worcester Community Foundation through its 2020 Community Grant Program, New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill is planning to deepen its connection with the Worcester Refugee Assistance Program, known as WRAP.

Worcester has the largest refugee population in Massachusetts and WRAP serves refugees from Burma in the area. New England Botanic Garden at Tower Hill believes access to green space is a basic human right and is committed to environmental justice by making its gardens accessible to all. To forward this goal the garden has partnered with WRAP since 2016 on programming geared to participants ages 5 to 19.

Recently, we conducted a Question and Answer session with Lesa McWalters, the executive director of WRAP, to learn more about the collaboration.

Question: What is the WRAP program all about?
Answer: WRAP started in 2009 when 230 refugees from Burma resettled in Worcester and a group of volunteers got together to see how we could help.  The first few years were focused on basic needs, such as how to navigate social services, getting furniture, finding jobs, registering for school and learning English.  Now, since the refugees have been here for 11 years, WRAP is now focused on education and overall well-being of the children, youth, adults and elders in the community. Education includes helping kids with homework, navigating the virtual learning process, reading and writing skills, and fun activities. Education for parents and adults includes learning the English language, learning how to drive, financial education, and family activities to create a sense of community and to embrace the Burmese culture.

Q: What kinds of activities do the WRAP youth participate in?
The children and youth participate in Zoom one-to-one mentorships with volunteers two times per week to help with virtual learning, homework, reading and writing skills, and a personal check-in to see how they are doing overall. On Thursday evenings, WRAP provides an all-group activity where all children and youth come together (and sometimes families) to do a fun activity, such as play Bingo, do a craft, read books, do yoga, and other activities that encompass the theme of the week such as: wellness, recycling, dinosaurs, ocean life, emotions and mental health, and many others. On Saturday mornings, the children’s group meets virtually to do a lea