Voices: Organization devoted to assisting new Dayton-area immigrants

More than 23 years ago my wife Tiffany, our children — Brooks, Madeson and Romain Sato — made an intentional choice when Romain arrived in the United States from the Central African Republic.

We chose to become family, together taking on challenges and opportunities created by race, culture and societal stigmas. That decision brought two very different worlds together that ultimately resulted in a wonderful, diverse and loving family that has grown from four to 15, and includes seven beautiful grandchildren. Over the last 20 years, we have continued to embrace people new to America and others in our local communities who may be considered underserved.

This passion to advocate for those at-risk, oppressed or marginalized is attributed to our family’s faith. We need to intentionally seek and serve those considered poor, fatherless, foreigners, homeless and those who have been imprisoned. They are at the center of God’s heart.

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Based on my experiences in government and the criminal justice system, I have seen significant gaps that hinder many in their quest to achieve independence and a positive quality of life, and those gaps can create difficulties and imbalance for generations. No matter how well intended, our systems were not designed to answer every need, but many have experienced need, and would have been more successful if someone had stood in the gap with them. Seeing and knowing isn’t enough, we need to do something about it. We need to translate awareness into action.

Tiffany and I decided to put this conviction into action by founding Valens Solutions, a Miami Valley nonprofit organization that serves immigrant and underserved populations by personally navigating critical resources to acquire basic needs, improve quality of life, achieve independence and promote equity and justice. Our goal is to provide guidance and encouragement to those who are without hope, those who have been marginalized by status or history.

We begin by trying to understand the person/family and the context behind their situation. We genuinely care about them, and their lives and recognize that most of their challenges require a collaborative effort involving multiple resources. We don’t pass them off; we stay close to them up to resolution.

Life is harder for some than it is for others. We can’t magically make everything better, but we can make sure our clients know they aren’t alone. Valens Solutions is fortunate to have two highly educated, experienced and empathetic interpreters who are included in each case so that when translation is necessary, they aren’t translating just words, which can many times be taken out of context or misunderstood. Valens Solutions interpreters understand the individuals and the context of their needs.

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Thus far in 2021, Valens Solutions has had the opportunity to work directly with more than 250 individuals and families, and has provided education for more than 1,000. We have connected clients to employment, housing, healthcare, education, transportation, food, and have assisted with both civil and criminal cases. In addition to personal navigation, Valens Solutions is actively working with several governmental and non-profit partners to address quality of life issues including transportation, safe housing, identification, education, and integration of minorities into law enforcement roles.

I have become very aware of both the tremendous need, and my many shortcomings. Though some cases seem overwhelming, wonderful outcomes are created through strong relationships, strategic partnerships and letting God control what we can’t. If I could give readers one piece of advice, I would say invest in someone different than you, and when you see a need or injustice, be intentional, step out and do something about it.

Thomas N. Thompson is executive director of Valens Solutions and a retired assistant police chief who is also a consultant with Law Enforcement Action Partnership.

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