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Fig Tree staff, interns increase online interactions

Collaboration produces directory translations for refugee elders

Fall has been a season of changes for The Fig Tree, along with the retirement of associate editor Yvonne Lopez-Morton.

Eastern Washington and Gonzaga University interns who served last spring and summer opened doors to increase The Fig Tree presence online.

In September, Josiah Brown, a local student studying online with City Vision College in Kansas City, Mo., began an internship to apprentice to learn journalism skills, to write and edit, and to learn and expand online presence and social networking.

Another new facet of Fig Tree work is collaborating with World Relief to translate resources in the directory for elderly refugees and immigrants.

Interns expand online presence

Josiah, a major in nonprofit management, will gather calendar and news items, share them on Facebook and Twitter, write features, edit and assist with nonprofit operations tasks. 

Having had experience in urban ministry, house building and African mission since junior high at Spokane’s First Presbyterian Church, he said he wanted to sharpen his communication skills.

The February 2011 Fig Tree features a story about his involvements, which range from a Whitworth Jan Term 2010 studying poverty, hope and altruism in Tanzania; fall 2010 studies at the Denver Urban Semester of Mile High Ministries; January to June 2011, as a missionary apprentice in Senegal, and summer 2011 on Christian Peacemaker Team in Palestine and Israel.

Mary said The Fig Tree seeks to provide opportunities for more communication department interns from area universities.

In the summer, Mary Hazuka wrote features, gathered news and expanded Fig Tree presence with Facebook and on Twitter.

Josiah will build on that and will learn website development to integrate the social networking tools with the website.

He is adding news online to draw people to the website to in-depth articles and resources.

Facebook builds connections

Malcolm Haworth, directory editor and ecumenical/interfaith consultant, has also added to the Facebook use by creating conversations and directing people to resources and discussions in the wider faith community.

For example, he recently started the Inland Northwest Coalition for the Common Good, a Facebook group—informally related to the new state Faith Action Network and The Fig Tree—to build connections and conversations in the faith community.

Several pastors and lay people are conversing daily on that group.

“Since we first had a website committee develop an overall vision in 2004, we have been growing into that vision and incrementally improving our website as our limited budget has allowed,” said Mary.  “We originally estimated it would take more than $1 million to develop a multimedia website.

“Now, however, with new social networking tools, YouTube and partnering with KYRS for streaming audio, we are able to provide more of the online resources we intended and we have enough traffic to develop more advertising online,” she said. 

With the retirement of several people who have done bulk deliveries for many years, Mary said there is also need for more volunteers.

Writers’ training sessions in the spring, summer and fall have increased the pool of writers.

“With Yvonne’s retirement, we will be looking at our overall staffing needs,” Mary said.

Directory translations offered

As a service to elderly refugees and immigrants, The Fig Tree is partnering with World Relief, and Aging and Long Term Care of Eastern Washington to publish online translations of selected resources from The Fig Tree’s 2011-12 Resource Directory:  Guide to Congregations and Community Resources.

Mark Kadel, executive, Colleen Daniels and and Susan Hales of World Relief approached directory editor Malcolm Haworth with the idea of collaborating, rather than doing redundant research to create their own directory.

Colleen and Malcolm have selected agencies.  Translations of the agency names and descriptions will be done in Russian, Nepali, Burmese and Arabic for publication online now.  They will be published in print in summer 2012.

Mark said elders in the refugee and immigrant communities will have the resource information available so they can decide what resources fit their needs, without asking their children or grandchildren to translate.

For information, call 525-4112.