I Belong Philly is aiming to promote, engage and improve immigrants' lives in Philadelphia. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.
I Belong Philly is aiming to promote, engage and improve immigrants' lives in Philadelphia. Photo: Jensen Toussaint/AL DÍA News.

I Belong Philly sets sights on broadening its horizons


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In 2017, a group of enthusiastic, dedicated and diverse immigrants from different parts of the globe came together with a single mission.

The mission was to celebrate, promote and honor their respective cultures while also providing a learning opportunity for those involved. 

On a larger scale, the goal was to facilitate a space to create opportunities and dialogue, build relationships, network and better the lives of immigrants in the United States. 

That group of volunteers soon became collectively known as, I Belong Philly.

Since its foundation, the group has put together countless events in connection to its mission. 

Five years later, the group is looking to pull its resources and expand its mission, with an eye towards uncovering, honoring and uplifting immigrants’ stories and the invaluable contributions they have in the city.

To formulate this vision, I Belong Philly has partnered with Daniel Aguirre, an experienced community organizer, and founder and CEO of consulting firm Pueblo.

Through Pueblo, he works with organizations across the US, and his native Mexico, to help improve or change the organization’s culture and strengthen inclusive practices.

“This is deep, transformational work that takes a toll on everyone involved,” said Aguirre. “But it’s also very uplifting.”

“I'm grateful that the I Belong team has trusted me to guide them through a series of conversations, exploration. asking them some questions that they may not ask themselves before or not felt that they needed,” he continued.

At its core, the vision of I Belong Philly is to create an environment of discovery and cultural exchange that will lead past assimilation and firmly into the belief and reality that for immigrants, Philadelphia is, in fact, home. 

Inclusion is among the biggest principles of this approach.

Aguirre made a point to emphasize that inclusion is not a destination.

“It's actually a lifelong journey, and there is no destination,” he said. “And things aren't going to be perfect, but we still need to continue to pursue progress. So, for me, inclusion is a practice.”

Other values and principles include accountability, communication, honesty, safety and respect, among others.

A key component in the future of I Belong Philly is the implementation of a structural hierarchy. 

I Belong Philly is a small, volunteer-led organization of individuals with full-time jobs who commit to putting together the best events possible to celebrate immigrants and the diverse cultures that make up the city’s population.

“We want to look at creating a structure that has different levels of responsibility, and different sorts of commitments that are required,” said Aguirre. 

The structure consists of five tiers — supporters, active members, project leaders, a leadership council and an executive board.

The idea of the structure is for each level to have a specific set of responsibilities, leading to a more seamless approach when putting together the set of events that take place throughout the year.

Given the work that has already been accomplished by the group, the commitment is quite evident; more so provided that it is volunteer-based. 

“How we get paid is by how we grow our skills,” Silvia Roldán, a member of the I Belong Philly team, told AL DÍA.

Ultimately, she noted that the organization needs more volunteers.

With more hands, more can get done and the mission and purpose of the organization can eventually come to fruition.

I Belong Philly team members currently represent Brazil, Colombia, France, Ecuador, Venezuela, China, Puerto Rico, Algeria and Bangladesh. 

“I am really excited for the work we can continue to do,” said Roldán.

To learn more about I Belong Philly, its mission and work, or to become a volunteer, click here.

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