Valérie Berta, the Coordinator of Global Entrepreneurs, will work to raise awareness of REDI within the refugee and immigrant communities, building trust to recruit new entrepreneurs and facilitate new business and job creation in Columbia/Boone County. She will work to educate refugee and immigrant populations about the coaching, tools and resources REDI provides and the ongoing need for new skilled entrepreneurial talent in Boone County. Finally, Valérie will be the go-to contact person for refugees and immigrants for all business and entrepreneurship questions in mid-Missouri.
In Valérie's own words...
What are you most excited about with your work in this new role at REDI?
"I am deeply committed to ensuring that the wealth of culture, skills, knowledge and experience that global citizens bring to Missouri are not only recognized and celebrated but also utilized for the success of the community at large. When they win, we win, no matter our differences."
Can you describe a professional success story related to your work with immigrant and refugee communities?
"When I was Community Engagement and Outreach Coordinator at Refugee Services, one of the events I organized, in partnership with Mizzou International Programs, was a baby shower for Afghan moms. It was meaningful to see the many hours of work we put in translated into not only a wealth of information (we organized a medical Q&A with MU Health Care staff together with the event) for the moms and expecting moms, but also material donations that made their lives better. And sweeter--oh, the joy of late night hours wrapping adorable baby stuff! The event was also helpful for cultural integration and bridge-building in the community."
Could you talk about your work as a social documentary photographer? What sparked your interest in that field, and how does it connect with the work you plan to do at REDI?
"The social documentary spark was always in me, I believe, but was fired up at Mizzou when, as a grad student in photojournalism, I founded the Voices Workshop, a photo workshop for disadvantaged kids in Columbia. The workshop had fellow students teaching local kids the basics of photojournalism and serving as mentors, and relied on corporate sponsorship for supplies (analog cameras and processes back then!). Voices also went on after I graduated, steered by photojournalism students, a fact that I am particularly proud of. In 2017 I also founded and now continue to direct the WE project, a nonprofit organization that seeks to amplify and celebrate people who occupy marginalized identities and fosters intersectional dialogue to advance social justice. The WE project hosts monthly intersectional storytelling panels, called Liberating Stories, in partnership with The Bridge in the College of Education at Mizzou (online and in person; sign up on social media for The Bridge and the WE project). Finally, I work as a documentary photographer both in my role at the WE project and as an activist in the community. That work ties in with the work at REDI in various ways, fortunately. I envision my position at REDI, which is brand new, as a way to uplift communities that have been marginalized. What better way to rebuild your life in a new place than forging your very own path ahead by creating your own business and succeeding at it!"