Opportunities for Chenango is a Community Action Agency (CAA) that supports community residents to “help people to help themselves in achieving self-sufficiency”. CAAs were established in 1964 under the federal Economic Opportunity Act, and have grown nationally to number over 1000 public and private organizations that serve the nation’s poorest citizens. Opportunities for Chenango manages programs in adult literacy, child and family development, employment support, First Time Homebuyers Program and other housing programs, energy and weatherization assistance , and family health and nutrition
A key goal for all CAAs is to insure that residents have access to adequate, quality housing. Opportunities for Chenango supports a subsidiary organization, Quaranta Housing Services, to manage community services in the housing and energy areas. As an Upstate Institute Summer Field School fellow, Albert Boateng, ’14 is working closely with staff in Quaranta to assess the effectiveness of its programs, as seen from the resident’s perspective. “The main project that I am working on for Opportunities for Chenango is a Residential Community Satisfaction Survey. This is basically putting together and administering a survey tool to find out Resident experience in Chenango County with respect to housing.” In addition, Albert does site visits to community residential areas in the City of Norwich to assess neighborhood conditions.
Working with a CAA has also given Albert new insights into the region, particularly with regard to poverty. Many students often see only a small part of the region, and “……may believe that poverty does not exist in this county since there are a lot of affluent communities in the county. However, just like any community there are people in this region that are underprivileged and need some form of support.” But, fundamentally, the opportunity to help those at need is a source of satisfaction. “Working with Opportunities for Chenango has been a great joy. Everyone is ready to help the other person even if it is beyond his or her job description. … Seeing the invaluable service that the agency provides gives me great joy and helps me get through each day.”
Albert is completing his second stint as a Summer Field Fellow working with non-profit agencies, and thus has gained real insights into these organizations. “Having worked at a non-profit organization last summer, I have gained exposure to some of the problems that organizations in that sector face and consequently, gained knowledge on how to tackle some of these problems. The Upstate Institute provides the opportunity for me to make use of the skills I possess and also affect the lives of people around me, which has been a life-long passion of mine.”