Strengthening Community Together

June 7, 2019

EMBARC, a Des Moines based nonprofit, started small in Waterloo, but from those beginnings, has grown into a leader in strengthening the refugee community in the Cedar Valley. 


“We opened our doors here in Waterloo in 2014, which is actually thanks to a grant from the Community Foundation,” said Mallory Petsche, Waterloo Program Coordinator with EMBARC. 


The organization’s mission is to improve the world of possibilities for refugee families through advocacy, education, and community development. Currently, EMBARC in Waterloo is focusing on two main areas: health programming and family development. At the Community Foundation of Northeast Iowa’s Celebration of Community, EMBARC received an $80,000 mission fulfillment grant and a $10,000 Women’s Fund grant for its parent navigators program.


“On one side we’re working on a community needs assessment. It really focuses on the workforce and barriers to members of the refugee community to getting jobs and really narrowing down how child care affects that,” said Mallory. “On the other side, we’re working on having a walk-in clinic for social services where individuals are able to come in and get their needs met and also gain skills for employment, fill out applications, and learn about different job opportunities.”


According to Mallory, the primary motivation for parents who have overcome many hardships to come to the United States is to give their children a better life with opportunities to thrive. The information gathered from these surveys will help provide better opportunities for families and children and create self-sufficiency.


At the heart of all the successes has been two communities coming together to strengthen each other.


I feel truly honored to work for an organization with this mission and value of empowerment for the refugee community and have seen just all of the wonderful things that this community has brought to Waterloo, said Mallory. I'm also thankful that Waterloo is dedicated to becoming more welcoming and to working on expanding their services and to make it so families here are able to get the care they really need.


"I really want to touch on how important the Community Foundation is to the history of EMBARC. It was that first grant that brought us here, and we really would not be in Waterloo if it wasn’t for that support that launched us. Everywhere we’ve grown and everything we’ve become, it all started with this Foundation believing in EMBARC.”

Mallory Petsche