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Office of Refugee Resettlement Newsletter - October 2015

Published: October 1, 2015

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Connections and our biweekly update—Quick Connection: Updates and Announcements from ORR—are intended to help resettlement stakeholders and mainstream partners access the information needed to become better engaged and work together as Refugee Champions, welcoming and championing the successful integration of newcomers to our communities!

This issue of Connections features:

Integration at Work: Connecting Refugee Youth and Adults to Work in San Diego

Coordination and partnership between the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and its local workforce investment board are front and center to a Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA)-funded youth employment program and continuing opportunities for adult refugees in San Diego, California.

The Connect2Work program provides comprehensive program services for at-risk youth ages 16-24 including basic skills classes and GED classes/program. Enrolling approximately 200 participants a year, the program serves refugee and other at-risk youth. Thirty-three percent of the youth entered the country as refugees (top five countries are Somali, Burmese, Congolese, Ethiopian, and Eritrean), and 50% arrived in the United States post-2010.

Some unique offerings include a work readiness class that includes a financial literacy component, paid internships, assistance identifying and enrolling in postsecondary and vocational training, youth development activities, and the ability to earn cash incentives and receive supportive services to cover the cost of transportation, work clothes, and other needs. Connect2Work’s outcomes include more than 75% of at-risk youth being placed in postsecondary training or employment and an 80% high school graduation rate.

In addition to Connect2Work, the IRC was the recipient of a Health Professions Opportunity Grant (HPOG) from the Office of Family Assistance at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. This five-year grant served the Eastern part of the County where more than 75% of newly arrived refugees have arrived since 2007. Thirty-two percent of the 381 clients served in the five year grant period were refugees. This includes clients from 22 different countries and 55% being foreign born participants (46% were from Iraq, 10% from the Philippines, 9% from Mexico, 7% from Somalia, and 7% from Ethiopia). Nearly 300 clients completed credential or certificate programs in allied health and 80% were women.

Additionally the IRC recently won a Workforce Accelerator Fund (WAF) from the State of California that encourages the IRC to partner further with its local WIB by co-locating a staff member in two American Job Centers of California (AJCCs) located in the two neighborhoods most impacted by refugees. For more information, contact Erica Bouris at Erica.bouris@rescue.org, and visit the Department of Labor’s WIOA website.

Grantee Spotlight: Indianapolis Grantee Quietly Innovates to Better Serve Refugees

For 35 years, Exodus Refugee Immigration has helped thousands of refugees establish their lives in Indiana by thinking creatively to overcome common resettlement obstacles. During a recent tour of the organization, staff told the Connections team that Exodus is not “a flashy, innovative organization.” Rather, the staff and volunteers at Exodus simply “get things done.” Yet, over the course of the conversation about just how Exodus gets things done, it became clear that while they may not be flashy, Exodus is in fact quietly innovative.

The first sign of this came when Executive Director Carleen Miller mentioned that the organization had partnered with the city’s bus system to find funding for transportation services to help clients secure permanent employment.

Exodus Refugee bus“Indianapolis doesn’t have a very robust public transit system, despite the fact that we’re the twelfth largest city in the country. We have some bus routes, but most people need a car to get around,” Miller explained. “Through private foundations, and with help from IndyGo [the city’s bus system], we were able to get funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation to buy two buses,” which the agency painted with the Exodus name and logo. “Now, during the early stages of a client’s employment, our small fleet lets us provide transportation services to those who do not live along a public bus route."

In addition to a lack of transportation, serious health issues often create barriers to employment. With a Medical Case Management (MCM) caseload of more than 25 clients, Exodus is working to help its clients—who are mostly Chin, Karen, and Karenni refugees from Burma or Congolese and Iraqi refugees—get the health care they need when they need it.

“Our health care system is so complicated, our clients need help navigating it. We have two special medical case managers, one of whom is a refugee doctor from Burma who is not licensed to practice medicine here,” Miller explained. “He’s overqualified for so many of the jobs he could get here, but his skills can really help our clients, many of whom have a hard time being advocates for themselves.” Miller credited the flexibility of ORR’s Preferred Communities program, in which Exodus participates as an affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries (EMM), with providing them the resources needed for this important service.

Cole Varga, Director of Operations, highlighted another innovative program that Exodus had designed: a Language, Cultural Orientation and Readiness for Employment (LCORE) class. “We wanted [a language curriculum] that simultaneously allowed us to teach our clients English while also helping them learn new cultural norms. So, we made our own,” said Miller. The LCORE class is a thirty-six session, eighteen-week program designed to teach practical English language skills, as well as those necessary to facilitate cultural transition in the U.S. This curriculum allows clients to learn English, while also learning how to complete job applications and interview, write checks, fill a prescription, and report a problem to a landlord.

Exodus’ creative approach to service is one reflected in the work of providers across the country, who support newly-arrived refugees with vast and varying needs, on a limited budget, in an extremely short time frame. It’s a matter of making those limited resources go farther, to reach as many people as possible. From designing a new English language curriculum to funding the purchase of a small transportation fleet, Exodus staff continuously look for ways to overcome barriers, and “get things done.” This can-do attitude is powered by the knowledge that that the obstacles faced by refugee-resettlement organizations are nothing compared to the obstacles faced—and overcome—by the refugees they so humbly serve. 

Refugee Health Matters: ORR Soon Releasing Women's Health Videos for Congolese Refugees

In October, ORR will release a new video series on women’s health issues for Congolese refugees. Shot in Swahili, the six-part video series focuses on a range of topics including an introduction to the U.S. health system, information on women’s reproductive health, and gender-based violence.

Refugee Health Matters“We hope service providers see these videos as tool they can use to start conversations that will eventually lead to a broader understanding of women’s health and wellbeing,” explained Dr. Curi Kim, Director of ORR’s Division of Refugee Health. “Of course, many refugees come from areas of the world where women are not educated about health-related issues, and it is important that both women and men learn about the issues discussed in the videos.”

This newest series follows other recent video releases from ORR, including, "Stories of Hope from Bhutanese Refugees: Moving from Distress to Wellness" and “Somali Refugee Women: Learn about Your Health!” “We’ve gotten positive responses from these video projects. We have also gotten some constructive feedback, which has spurred us to try some new approaches for the Congolese series,” Dr. Kim noted before explaining that four of the six videos will feature the acting of Congolese refugees who have resettled in Arizona.

“We are really looking forward to sharing this video series. And, we are very grateful to the partners that have helped us put it together, especially Maricopa Integrated Health System’s Refugee Women’s Clinic and the Congolese Community of Arizona,” Dr. Kim added.

In the coming weeks, the videos will be released on the ACF YouTube channel. Their release will be prominently featured on Quick Connections: Updates and Announcements from ORR. 

Sources of Support: White House Launches Welcoming Campaign; Task Force Members Producing Resources

Last week, the White House Task Force on New Americans launched the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign to encourage local communities to engage in local immigrant and refugee integration efforts. The President is calling on local communities to act on a set of principles to build inclusive, welcoming communities that allow all residents to advance integration efforts in three core areas: civic, economic, and linguistic integration.

Participating communities will be recognized for campaign participation, have access to technical assistance and consultation, receive information on funding opportunities, and will have opportunities to attend the White House Building Welcoming Communities Convening. Learn more about the Building Welcoming Communities Campaign and notify the White House that your city or county wants to participate by emailing NewAmericans@who.eop.gov.

In addition to this campaign, members of the Task Force have been developing resources and tools to help with refugee and immigrant integration. The U.S. Department of Education is half-way through a webinar series on Educational and Linguistic Integration. The first three webinars—which are archived online—covered data on immigrant children, creating welcoming schools, engaging immigrant parents. The next webinar will focus dual language learning. It is scheduled for September 30 at 2:00 pm Eastern. Information on how to participate is below.

The Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Civil Rights Division released new mapping resources that help identify the concentration of populations with limited English proficiency. As referenced in the White House Task Force on New Americans’ Strategic Action Plan, ensuring language and equal access is key to promoting immigrant and refugee integration. DOJ’s tools are great resources for those launching welcoming initiatives.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is launching a comprehensive, multilingual media campaign that aims to raise awareness of the benefits of citizenship as well as to provide those seeking citizenship and immigrant-serving organizations with educational resources and information on the naturalization process. These efforts seek to invite permanent residents to learn more about U.S. citizenship, ensure that permanent residents and stakeholders have access to naturalization information and resources, and provide those on the path toward citizenship with referrals and access to quality direct service providers.

News and Announcements: Upcoming Events and Deadlines for Resettlement Stakeholders

  • USCIS Reports Increased Scamming Activity Targeted at Immigrants. In recent weeks, USCIS has been alerted to increased “caller ID spoofing.” Please alert your constituents that if someone claiming to be from USCIS calls asking for money or making threats of deportation –do not go along with it— hang up and report it! See a USCIS blog post from this summer for more information on this scam and what you can do about it.
  • September 30: Webinar on Equipping Refugees with Skills for the Workforce. The Office of Family Assistance is pleased to announce an interactive video webinar on Equipping Refugees with Skills for the Workforce scheduled for September 30, 2015 from 1:00 to 2:30 p.m. EDT. This free webinar will highlight how refugee agencies and workforce partners are partnering with employers to provide employment as well as offering English and other skill-building opportunities. It will highlight several employer strategies and approaches that are working with TANF and workforce partners to provide employment and skill building opportunities for refugees. One program will highlight how they provide higher skilled refugees with bachelors’ degrees and professional work experience with more functional and advanced English language skills so they can re-explore their previous career pathways (typically engineers, doctors, accountants, and teachers in their home countries). Presenters will share how their programs and organizations recruit refugees and help navigate and access employment, career pathways, and credentialing and re-entering their previous career opportunities. Register here.
  • New Webinar Series Beginning October 6: Guide to Successful Grant Proposals. The Office of Minority Health Resource Center is pleased to present a new webinar series designed for community-based, faith-based and other organizations that want to learn the basics of creating successful federal grant applications. Webinars include: Technical Assistance: Foundations of Grant Writing; Why All the Excitement about Logic Models?; and Getting to Know the Federal Government and Funding Opportunities.
Last Reviewed: May 7, 2019