WATCH CELEBRATES 30TH
ANNIVERSARY IN THE WAKE OF RECENT EXPANSIONS
By Bob Hachey
On Friday, May 13, 2018, the Waltham Alliance for Teaching, Community Organizing and Housing, (WATCH), celebrated its 30th anniversary at the Charles River Museum of Industry and Innovation in Waltham. For its first 20 years, WATCH advocated for and developed affordable housing in Waltham. The lack of affordable housing means that many people who work in cities like Waltham cannot afford to live there. Fifteen years ago, WATCH merged with Breaking Barriers, which offered English as a second Language, (ESL) classes to Waltham’s immigrant population. This was a good fit as both organizations were in the business of empowering disenfranchised populations.
In 2015, the board of WATCH made a bold decision to undertake a substantial expansion. WATCH doubled the size of its office space and added more ESL classrooms. This was a considerable leap of faith at the time as we were not sure where all of the funding to make this happen would come from. AS we voted to take this leap, many of us worried that it might be a leap too far.
However, due to the hard work of our development director, the generosity of our donors and a bit of luck, all went well. Before the expansion, we had a waiting list of over 300 persons for our ESL classes. Daria Gere, WATCH’s executive director has been working for WATCH for around 14 years is very proud of the progress WATCH has made under her stewardship: “Our biggest accomplishment has been ending our waiting list for ESL classes. By going to a volunteer taught model, we’ve been able to move to rolling enrollment for nearly all our classes. A student can come in on a Monday, get screened on Tuesday, and start classes on Wednesday. It’s so exciting to be able to meet that community need!”
In addition, WATCH has been able to hire more staff, which has allowed for the creation of new programs. ”We are growing in a sustainable way to meet the needs of our low income and immigrant communities. We’ve been able to connect with free immigration and job support services as well as add a citizenship class. Our growth has been supported by the community from all sectors- churches, individual donors, businesses, banks, foundations. This growing support lets us know we are on the right track”, explained Daria.
On empowering disenfranchised communities, Daria had this to say: “We hear from the community every day through phone calls and walk-ins and we respond to what the community needs. With our walk-in housing clinic we can let people know about their rights as tenants and give them the tools to advocate for themselves.”
WATCH has continued offering first time homebuyer classes as well as assisting low-income homeowners to make their homes more energy efficient. IF that weren’t enough, WATCH is also encouraging increased voter registration. While there is still a lot of work to do, the future of WATCH is looking very good.
Here is how Daria describes WATCH’s goals moving forward: “We are finishing our 5 year plan and thinking about new goals. One big goal is to try and figure out a way to combat gentrification and grow our stock of safe and affordable housing. That’s such an important part of our work and we will be engaging the community to come up with creative and viable solutions to this urgent problem.”
To learn more about WATCH, go to
WATCH is member of Community Works.