Q & A with Sarah Blakeney

We’re excited to welcome Sarah Blakeney, as the Employment Services Coordinator to the Catherine McAuley Center team! Get to know Sarah and the employment services CMC has to
offer!

Q: Sarah, tell us a bit about your background.

A: I am originally from Virginia and moved to Cedar Rapids right after Thanksgiving of last year (2018). Before that, I served in the Peace Corps in Morocco for two years. While there I was also working on my Master’s in Public Anthropology, conducting research on experiences accessing healthcare in several small towns and villages in the southeastern part of the country. My service also included doing pretty much whatever my community needed help with, including English clubs and classes and job readiness.

Q: What was it that drew you to this position at CMC? Why help with employment?

A: I was drawn to CMC because I knew I wanted to work with a non-profit. I had taken a class about the refugee experience and conducted a needs-based analysis with Nepali Bhutanese refugees during undergrad, so being able to serve that population was a big draw. I believe employment is such an important part of becoming self-sufficient and can give people a sense of freedom as well as inclusion into a new society and culture.

Q: How do you go about supporting refugees and immigrants in their employment goals?

A: My job involves everything from meeting with employers to teaching clients what the
American workforce looks like. I meet one-on-one with clients to talk about what their
employment goals are, create an email address and resume, and identify job opportunities that fit their needs. I also work with clients enrolled in the Matching Grant program, which serves refugees who have arrived within the past 30 days with extra employment support in order for them to reach self-sufficiency by 120-180 days after their arrival. Additionally, I hold Job Club every Friday, which is a 5-week program that discusses many different aspects of the American workforce. I meet with employers’ HR or recruiting teams to get a better understanding of their hiring needs and ways we can support them and overcome any barriers that might prevent our clients from being able to successfully work there.

Q: What are some highlights from your interactions with employers so far? What other types of employers would you like to work with?

A: So far, I have really enjoyed working with Kirkwood Community College, The Hotel at
Kirkwood, and Raining Rose. These and other employers have been very open and welcoming to our clients and motivated to find ways to break down employment barriers. I am open to developing and strengthening relationships with area employers but finding organizations in Iowa City and Waterloo in order to better serve the clients we resettle there is at the top of my list.

Q: What benefits do refugees and immigrants bring to the table as employees?

A: Refugees and immigrants are resilient and motivated to provide for their families. If they were living in refugee camps, they might not have had the opportunity to work and support themselves and overall, they just want to become self-reliant. Most of our clients also speak multiple languages and are able to find ways to communicate and problem solve cross-culturally. They have had to adapt to a whole new culture and that experience can help them be successful in any work environment.

 

New: Refugee Child Care Program!

Twenty-three percent of all residents in Iowa live in a “child care desert” where there are three times as many children as there are open child care spots according to the Center for American Progress. This lack of child care can result in financial and personal instability as family members forgo employment to take care of their children or send their children to unlicensed child care facilities.

This has a particularly heavy impact on refugee and immigrant communities. Many child care facilities lack the appropriate cultural or linguistic training to provide comfort and understanding to parents of different backgrounds. making child care options for these families even fewer. CMC remains committed to ensuring we create an inclusive community where everyone has an equal opportunity to become independent and self-sufficient and is proud to be launching a new initiative to address the lack of child care and provide career opportunities for refugees, in Cedar Rapids and Iowa City.

CMC is working with local partners like Iowa Child Care Resource and Referral, HACAP’s PACES to Quality Program, and 4Cs to guide refugees and immigrants through the training and DHS approval process and establish their own in-home child care businesses. This program is modeled after a similar program organized by Lutheran Services of Iowa in Des Moines that has had great success.

Hannah Miles, Refugee Child Care Program Coordinator

Hannah Miles, Refugee Child Care Program Coordinator, was hired to direct the program thanks to a federal grant from the Office of Refugee Resettlement. CMC is one of eight organizations in the nation that was selected for this funding. As the coordinating agency, CMC strives to not only increase the amount of culturally and linguistically appropriate child care, but also to help participants become more financially stable and self-sufficient by providing potential career opportunities and more accessible child care.

 

Governor Robert D. Ray – Hero to Refugees, Compassionate Humanitarian, Moral Leader

By Caleb S. Gates, Refugee Case Manager & Advocacy Specialist

Legacy. I reflected on that word as I returned to Iowa from a visit out of state with my 100-year old grandmother. I arrived home in Iowa to learn that former Iowa governor Robert D. Ray had died.  I’ve wanted to meet Governor Ray in person over the past few years and regret I never met him. I admire Governor Ray for numerous reasons, but especially for his work and advocacy for Southeast Asian refugees.

The state of Iowa has a history of welcoming refugees because of Governor Ray. Back in 1975, Governor Ray and 29 other governors received letters from the Tai Dam people requesting they be resettled together in the US as refugees. The Tai Dam, a minority ethnic group from Northwest Vietnam, fled for their lives four separate times. Governor Ray alone answered this request and worked to bring hundreds of Tai Dam to Iowa, making the state of Iowa became the only US state to directly sponsor refugees.

In 1979, Governor Ray offered to resettle 1500 Vietnamese “Boat People” in Iowa. Later the same year, Governor Ray visited refugee camps in Northern Cambodia where he saw children die from malnourishment and disease. To help, Governor Ray formed the Iowa SHARES program to provide food and medical aid to these people.

Furthermore, Governor Ray advocated for the Refugee Act of 1980 which established our current national framework for resettling refugees. Ray’s influence moved fellow Republican legislators to support the Refugee Act. The 1980 Refugee Act may not be law today if not for Governor Ray’s support. I thank Governor Ray for his compassion and leadership to bring refugees to Iowa. I am happy to work in the shadow left by the late Governor as work with refugees continues here in Iowa.

Governor Ray’s work teaches me. I must learn from my mistakes. Governor Ray made some mistakes when Iowa began resettling refugees in 1975. Governor Ray and those initially involved in refugee resettlement made errors in judgement by elevating the Tai Dam over other refugee ethnic groups. Colleen Shearer, the Iowa Job Services director whom Governor Ray put in charge of resettling refugees, accused ethnic Vietnamese refugees of committing welfare fraud. Governor Ray backed her. The state refugee program also came into conflict other volunteer agencies working with refugees. But Governor Ray and those helping refugees learned from their mistakes and made changes to those programs. They repaired frayed relationships among agencies all seeking to help refugees.

Governor Ray teaches me to do the right thing in spite of fear of making mistakes and even with suspect motives. Governor Ray chose to bring refugees to Iowa when a majority of Iowans disapproved. Governor Ray had compassion for refugees, but also set up a state agency to resettle refugees to maintain control of the program. Governor Ray so opposed welfare, that some refugees were sanctioned or denied services for going on state cash assistance. I do not admire all of these motives, but I applaud Governor Ray’s actions.  On May 29, 1979 at a Congressional hearing, Governor Ray explained his decision to bring more refugees to Iowa. “I saw that we really only had two choices: we could either turn our backs as countless others suffered and died, or we could extend a hand to help, and in so doing prevent tragic loss of innocent lives. Actually, I saw only one real choice. I wrote President Carter January 17, informing him that Iowa would resettle an additional 1500 refugees during this year.

Governor Ray’s memory strengthens my resolve to better help refugees here in Iowa. When confronted by needs of others less fortunate than ourselves – whether here in Iowa or around the world – may we, like Governor Ray – be compelled to help.


To learn more about Governor Ray’s work with refugees, please read Matthew Walsh’s book The Good Governor: Robert Ray and the Indochinese Refugees of Iowa and a tribute to Governor Ray by Kenneth M. Quinn, World Food Prize President, former Ray staffer, and key player in the original resettlement of refugees in Iowa.

You can honor the memory of Governor Ray by working for or donating to the causes Governor Ray cared about.

Making Sense of Border Policy

Family outside detention facility

A family outside the GEO Group-run Northwest Detention Center in Washington State. Photo by Seattle Globalist/Flickr

“I don’t understand the news about what’s happening at the border.”

“I am saddened and sickened by all of this.”

“I am ready to help!”

Abundant thanks to the many community members who have reached out to the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) over the last week out of concern for our neighbors affected by the current border policy.

At CMC, we believe in the dignity of every individual and that our future depends on inclusive communities that welcome, respect, and support a diversity of individuals and ideas. Like our partners at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI), we stand for a border policy that protects children and respects the rights of persons seeking asylum.

Who are asylum seekers?

So are the asylum seekers in the news the same people CMC is serving? We know a lot of Eastern Iowans are asking this as they eagerly look for ways to be part of the solution.

To answer that question, it’s necessary to understand the difference between immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers first. This video explains it well:

Put simply:

  • Immigrants have moved to another country by choice, often for economic reasons.
  • Refugees have fled persecution in their home country and apply for refugee status overseas. They complete a rigorous vetting process before arriving in the U.S., where a resettlement agency like CMC provides comprehensive support for their first 90 days here.
  • Asylum seekers are also fleeing persecution in their home country, but arrive in the U.S. or at the border before applying for protection. International law grants them the right to apply for asylum in another country.
  • A series of short videos from UNHCR further describes the journeys of these migrant groups as they make their way to their new homes.
Welcoming refugees

CMC volunteers welcome a member of a refugee family at the airport

CMC encounters people from each of these groups through our Adult Basic Education, Resource Navigation, and Employment Support services, all of whom are coming to CMC for opportunities to build skills, find stability, and make meaningful connections with the community. Only people with refugee status (those who applied for protection while overseas) are eligible for CMC’s resettlement program, which is conducted according to strict specifications from the U.S. State Department.

Though the people seeking Catherine McAuley Center services may not be the exact faces you see on the news coverage of the detention facilities along the border, many of the people we serve also came to the United States in search of safety or greater opportunities for their families. Each gesture of welcome toward them is creating an inclusive, engaged community that will continue to advocate for our neighbors at home and abroad.

Supporting a welcoming community

To support a welcoming community here in Eastern Iowa, you can:

Volunteer
Become a tutor for one of the 100+ adult learners on our waiting list or share your time and skills with CMC in another way.

Give
We appreciate donations of any of the items on our wishlist that stock our food and hygiene pantry or are used to set up a newly-arrived refugee family’s home. You can even host a food or supply drive with your place of worship, employer, or other social group!

We also rely on donations from individuals to support our mission of offering hope and opportunity to our neighbors. Monetary gifts allow us to continue pursuing new opportunities to better serve our neighbors!

Spread the word
Follow us on Facebook or Twitter for the latest updates, and let your friends know how they can get involved! And as you learn more about the issues you care about like border policy, consider sharing your concerns with your federal elected officials.

Thanks for working together with us for an inclusive community!

World Refugee Day 2018- Reflection

By Caleb S. Gates, Case Manager & Advocacy Specialist

Burundian drummers performing on Iowa City’s Pentacrest in honor of World Refugee Day.

Home. A place to call your own. Our sense of place in this world greatly defines our identity. When we meet a new person, we quickly ask “Where are you from?” Our place of birth, our childhood home, our old stomping grounds leave an indelible mark on our psyches. It means something to identify as a Midwesterner.

Politicians running for office speak of their connection to place. They emphasize being born and raised in the district with family ties that go back X number of generations. Deep personal and family roots in one place display loyalty to that place. Even the Constitution illustrates this unspoken loyalty test. Anyone running for Congress has to reside in that district and be a citizen for at least 7 years. Prospective Senators have to reside in that state and be a citizen for at least 9 years. The President of the United States must be a natural-born citizen of the United States. Place of birth and long residence show loyalty cred. This unspoken loyalty belief helps explain why many claimed President Obama was not born in the United States. Questioning his birth questioned his loyalty. This is why draft dodgers during the Vietnam War who fled to Canada were painted as traitors. Fleeing the draft was seen as a dereliction of duty and displayed disloyalty to the nation.

This psychological phenomenon helps explain why many fear and reject the Refugee. No matter that the refugee fled their country because of persecution because of who they are or what they believed. No matter that the refugee feared for their lives and their family’s lives. A refugee who left their country must not be loyal to their country. How could a disloyal refugee ever be a loyal American citizen? This innate desire to divide people into loyalists and traitors remains as a relic of our species’ youth. Long before civilization sprung into being, discerning loyalists and traitors – who would defend the tribe and who would sell us out – was a matter of life and death. Now that civilization has bloomed and population size has expanded, such mechanisms can harm our ability to build a cohesive, diverse society and love our neighbor as ourselves.

All humans desire home, though at its core home is an idea, not a specific place. Yet even the nomad’s idea of home requires space, though they spend little time in one fixed location. For most, home requires stability only a geographic location – a plot of land, a roof overhead – can bring. Refugees are no different. A refugee has been denied the right to stay in their home country without fear of persecution. Denied by their homeland, they may wander for years in search of a place to call home.

Since 1980 over 3 million refugees now call the United States home. These refugees have immeasurably enriched our country, our state, and our local communities. Today, June 20, 2018, is the International Day of the Refugee.  We celebrate the refugees who have come to this country and remember the more than 22 million refugees who still wait for a place to call home. We should continue to welcome them to the United States – the land of the free, the home of the brave.

The Catherine McAuley Center has welcomed more than 140 refugees to Eastern Iowa since April 2017, and will welcome 44 additional newcomers over the next month! There are many ways you can create a welcoming community for these new neighbors: Volunteer, give, or host a supply drive for household items for newly-arrived families!

AbUSed: The Postville Raid panel discussion

Luis Argueta, filmmaker

“So, my purpose was to come to Postville for four days, interview a couple people, go back to New York and put all those interviews in a series that I have on YouTube about immigrants. Well, those four days turned into two weeks, and that first trip turned into 29 trips before this film was completed.

The reason that happened is because I met Father Paul and Jennifer Cooley and Sister Mary and the immigrants who you saw in the film. Their stories were so impactful that it made me realize that I didn’t know anything about immigration, even though I am an immigrant myself. And second, that this was a very complicated story that deserved a lot of attention.

Now ten years and three films later, I’m still coming back.  And every time I come back, it’s like coming home.”

Filmmaker Luis Argueta, was captivated by the stories in Postville, Iowa, following one of the largest immigration raids in U.S. history. In April, community members gathered at the Cedar Rapids Public Library for a screening of Luis’ film AbUSed: The Postville Raid, and a panel discussion among people with firsthand experience of the aftermath of the raid. Here, we share some highlights from their conversation.

Film screening

Could you talk about the legal aspects of the Postville raid? From the legal perspective, what was unusual or unique about what happened there?
Yer Vang

Yer Vang speaks about the legal aspects of the Postville raid

Yer Vang, Director of Immigration Legal Services at Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Dubuque:

 

What’s unique and different, I think, for many of us, we think of Law and Order. Every individual defendant gets their chance in court and they have a right to counsel. And if they can’t afford an attorney, the government is supposed to provide them with a public defender. Not so in the context of immigration law. And I think what’s hard for people to understand is immigration law is this hybrid of administrative law that’s not in the context of our judicial branch. But, in fact, under our executive branch, under the Department of Justice.

So even though the proceedings may feel like a criminal proceeding, these individuals [in Postville] were not allowed to have an attorney present… Even to this day, immigrants in immigration court are not guaranteed immigration lawyers. Not even children. They’re expected to defend themselves in front of a judge, in front of a government attorney who’s trying to deport perhaps a 15 or 13-year-old immigrant.

The other piece that I think is unique about this that you heard in the documentary was how fast these 389 individuals got processed… As the video shows, many of these folks were coerced or … assigned immigration documents that said “I’ll take this plea so I don’t have to sit in detention for longer than necessary and then be deported.” And many of these individuals did not understand the immigration consequences or the long-term consequences of signing these forms or taking these plea deals.

But I also want to highlight another very important piece of immigration law that this incident also raises, which is a U-visa, which affords immigrants who are victims of certain crimes to be able to seek temporary relief and stay in the United States and work lawfully. In Postville, many of those would qualify for the U-visa.

And so, attorneys, such as myself, could then assist immigrants to screen and see if they could qualify for the U-visa.  Now they also had to still show not only were they victims but that they cooperated or were willing to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation of such crimes. And so, it’s really not just saying I’m a victim, but going through the multiple steps and proof of identifying that you’re a victim. That you’re cooperating with law enforcement… But I think what’s even more sad, is that several of the individuals weren’t screened for immigration relief and could have avoided being detained and deported.

I think this incident in Postville raises a lot of constitutional questions that people have and concerns.  Unfortunately, I think our immigration law has not kept up with the changes of what’s needed and the larger fix, I think has to do with legislative fixes that change certain protections for immigrants. Because immigrants, if they’re processed in such a way, should be allowed a right to legal counsel. But that’s not the case as it stands right now.

 

What practical steps can those here this evening take to become strong Rosa Parks for the immigration system?

 

Dr. Jennifer Cooley

Dr. Jennifer Cooley encourages the audience to stay informed

Dr. Jennifer Cooley, Associate Professor of Spanish at the University of Northern Iowa:

 

I may make mention, just being here tonight is the first step. Being aware of our history, because as Americans we have a tendency to forget our history.  We have collective amnesia sometimes.  Or selective amnesia.  If we remember, as we saw in the video, despite some of the horrific things that happened, there were some good things that came out of it.  Legislatively and bill-wise, right?  Having immigrants being advised of the consequences to the immigration.

I think in light of this past year and a half, the … fear and anxiety in immigrant communities all across this nation is real.  We know, and I know I hear first-hand from my clients as well as people in the community know, again the fear that most immigrants are so afraid of going out, that they don’t leave. All they do is stay at home.  Perhaps maybe go to church and perhaps go to work and get their kids to school, and that’s about it.  And so, when you think about immigrants living in fear constantly, daily, how that affects their psyche, it’s indescribable what it does to a person and young people.

But I think, steps that you all can take is to educate yourself, to be aware of these issues, regardless of where you stand on immigration. And I think it’s so important to know the facts and not buy into the myths and the rumors about what, the rumors of immigrants dealing daily with in the jobs.  But really understanding the true facts of what immigrants offer to this country and that immigrants are part of the social fabric of our lives and build our communities and that they add value rather than detract or are negative blights on our community.

It’s so important that when issues like this come up, that we speak out and be present and let our representatives and legislators know… But we need people like you to speak up and speak loudly about laws that really are unfair and unjust and do more harm than good for our communities.  Not just for the immigrant community, but our community.

 

Response to UN Ambassador Haley’s Statement on Syrian Refugees

March 2018 marked the 7-year anniversary of the start of the Syrian Civil War, now one of the largest humanitarian crises in the world. Altogether, 43.2% of Syria’s 22 million people have unwillingly left home. Percentage wise, this would be as if 1.36 million Iowans were forced to flee the state in less than a decade.

Since the beginning of 2018, only 11 Syrian refugees have been allowed to enter the United States. In 2017, 3,024 Syrian refugees entered the U.S., and in 2016, 15,479. Entrance numbers in 2016 may sound large, but only equate to .3% of the 5.4 million now-stateless Syrians.

 

Recently, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, was asked how the U.S. can justify admitting only 11 Syrian refugees this year. Ambassador Haley responded, “[Syrian refugees] want to go home…Not one of the many I talked to ever said we want to go to America.” Haley’s answer misleads. She implies that the U.S. only admitted 11 refugees this year because these refugees want to return home to Syria.

Understand, no one chooses to be a refugee. No one wants to be a refugee. Given the choice, refugees would return to their home country. But they cannot. To qualify as a refugee, these Syrians must have fled Syria and have a well-founded fear of persecution because of who they are or what they believe. Though Syrians long for their country, they cannot return because they, their spouse, and their children would be killed if they return.

Only about 1% of refugees every year are resettled in a third country like the United States. These individuals apply and, after thorough vetting which can take several years, arrive in a new country to make their home. Many request come to the U.S. because they have relatives or friends already here. They ask to come to the U.S., not because they want to leave their country, but because their country is no longer safe and no hope remains for a solution in the near future. Refugees often feel the tug of home. Many would prefer to return to their country of birth in peace. But peace eludes their country, so they remain here and create a new life for themselves and their children.

Given the bloody Syrian conflict, the United States’ history of welcoming refugees, and our capacity to continue doing so, allowing only 11 refugees in this year is a failure of moral duty. Our leaders cannot claim to care for Syrian children poisoned by chemical weapons, and then refuse to allow Syrian refugee children to enter the United States. We call on our leaders to put pressure on the Department of Homeland Security to continue security screenings of Syrians. We call on our leaders who pressure our President to allow more refugees from Syria. As the bloody civil war in Syria continues, bringing Syrians who fear for their lives to safety in this country is the least we can do.

 

Caleb Gates, Refugee & Immigrant Services Case Manager and Advocacy Specialist

 

Statement on “Anti-Sanctuary City Bill”, SF481

Iowa outline on welcome wallCaleb Gates, Refugee Case Manager & Advocacy Specialist

We here at the Catherine McAuley Center (CMC) lament the signing into law of SF481, the so-called “Anti-Sanctuary City Bill”. SF481 mandates that state and local law enforcement honor immigration detainers. An immigration detainer asks local law enforcement to detain a person held in custody for 48 hours to allow Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to come and detain and possibly deport certain individuals. Under the current administration, any undocumented person – even parents of young children who pose no threat to public safety – are now a priority for deportation.

An immigration detainer is not a warrant. It does not require probable cause. Federal courts have ruled the mandating of immigration detainers to be unconstitutional. Immigration detainers can be used against legal residents of the US merely accused, but not convicted, of a criminal or civil offense. As SF481 becomes law, any state and local law enforcement agency here in Iowa, as well as other local entities (possibly including public schools) who refuse to honor ICE detainers will be stripped of all state funding.

The Catherine McAuley Center works daily alongside students, volunteers, and other community members to create an inclusive community. We support the right of every Iowan to feel secure, and commend the work of our state and local law enforcement to keep us safe. Iowa law enforcement universally opposed SF481. Police chiefs and officers around the state rely on trust and cooperation of local communities to serve and protect those same communities. SF481 could erode trust of law enforcement among Iowa’s immigrant communities. This law is likely to degrade, rather than improve, public safety.

SF481 sends a message that Iowa is not a welcoming and inclusive state. At CMC, we welcome those born in this country and those who recently arrived, those whose first language is English, and those for whom English is their 2nd, 3rd, or 4th language. We welcome all residents of Iowa no matter how they came to live here. We support families, including immigrant families. No child should fear being separated from their mother or father who poses no threat to our society and only wants to work to support their family. We call on our legislators and government leaders spread love, not fear, toward our fellow Iowans, including our newer residents. We call on native-born Iowans to accept, not reject, Iowa transplants no matter their country of origin. We call on ourselves to welcome, not repudiate the migrant, the refugee, the undocumented, the asylee, the displaced, and the stateless. Despite this legislation, we will fulfill our mission by promoting inclusion and standing in solidarity with every resident of Iowa.

May Update: Refugee Resettlement

Refugee resettlement is up and running at the Catherine McAuley Center! April brought the arrival of two siblings from Iraq and a young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, with a Burmese family resettled the first week of May. RefugeeRISE Americorps members, Clark Cunningham-White and Leya Neema, share an update on exciting program milestones and the program’s greatest needs moving forward below.


Welcome hug

After executive orders caused a delay in resettlement, Jacques, a young man from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was reunited with his aunt at the Eastern Iowa Airport in late April.

We announced the resettlement program in January, but the first arrival wasn’t until April. What caused the delay and what have you and other Resettlement staff been working on in the meantime?

Clark: There was a series of executive orders that limited the ability of USCRI, our parent resettlement agency, to resettle. We weren’t sure when the first arrivals would occur.

Leya: Also we never really know exactly when a new case will arrive until the last minute. USCRI sends us assurance forms, we assure (take responsibility for) them, then when all the checkpoints are ready to go they could come at any time.

Clark: While we were waiting, we decided to plan wrap-around services for existing students and refugees in our community. We surveyed current students about what kinds of services they would be interested in that CMC doesn’t currently offer. We also looked at other organizations to see what other kinds of volunteer roles could support students.

Leya: We were also working on employment, a lot of intakes, helping students with applications, going on job shadows.

 

How many refugees have arrived through CMC’s Resettlement Program so far?

Clark: Six people from three families, and we just got travel notifications this morning for a family of fourteen. That’s a lot of fufu (a staple food in parts of western and central Africa)!

 

What has the past month looked like for these newcomers since arriving in the U.S.?

Welcome handshake

CMC volunteers welcome a mother and her two grown daughters from Burma at the Eastern Iowa airport

Leya: They’re doing well. We have been assisting them in applying for social security cards, medical insurance, and temporary benefits and cash assistance. We’ve taken them to their initial health screening and two of them have already been to see their new family doctor.

Clark: We’ve also assured that they have a stable household or stable apartment to make sure that where they’re living is safe and that they understand different amenities within their living space.

Leya: They’re also enrolling in schools—whether it’s an ESL program for adults or K-12 education for the one minor we’ve worked with.

 

How many more refugees are expected to be resettled by CMC this year?

Leya: Originally we had 29 assured before the family of 14. Out of that we’ve resettled six. The rest of those could arrive at any time.

 

What kinds of physical items are needed for a new refugee family, and why do we have a lot of very specific items on our wishlist? What impact do those donations have?

Clark: USCRI provides us a list of required goods we have to make sure that the family receives. Everything from food and cleaning supplies to furniture is needed.

Leya: Some of these are items seem oddly specific to us, but if we’re giving a family canned goods, they’re certainly going to need a can opener, too. They’re things the family won’t really be used to or know to ask for.

Clark: It’s also really important because if we did not get these items from an in-kind donation, that cost would come from the limited funds for the refugee. You’re lessening the financial burden for the refugee as well through these donations. We’re really grateful for all the donors who have supported this program so far.

Leya: (Looking at wish list) We’re really in need of these items. The family of fourteen will be arriving on May 26th, so the bigger items like beds and dressers are needed now and faster than ever.

Clark: We’ll also need car seats for this family. We haven’t worked with children in these first few cases but a lot of baby items are actually needed now.

 

How can someone get involved to support this program?

Leya: Well, for example, for the family of fourteen, there will be two to three apartments that will need to be set up. So apart from donating all of these wonderful items, we’ll also need help setting up the house.

Most adults we are resettling are employable, so having someone volunteer to be a job coach is needed as well. And for anyone who has a business and is willing to hire a refugee, contact us.

Clark: Yes, we can make suggestions about going through the orientation to make it easier for the employer to have refugees as employees.

Leya: We can always work with the employer–

Clark: –to have a mutually beneficial relationship.

May 3 Arrival


A Note from Kristin, Volunteer Coordinator:

There are many ways to support the resettlement program. As Leya said, there is a need to help get refugees moved into their new homes. We are looking for volunteers to help with everything from heavy lifting of furniture to unpacking boxes!  We also have identified the need for a few new and exciting volunteer opportunities which are listed below.

  • Friendship Exchange: Be a friend to a refugee or immigrant family by sharing meals, celebrating holidays together, or helping with answers to questions as they navigate a new culture.
  • Job Coach: Help create resumes, access employment services, and complete online applications.
  • Interpreter: Offer interpretation services to refugee families who are struggling to connect to resources due to a language barrier.
  • Transportation volunteer: Provide a ride to important appointments and meetings for immigrant and refugee families who don’t have transportation.

Each of these new roles will require attending a two hour orientation and completing a volunteer interview.  Our next orientation will be Thursday, May 18th, at 6pm at the main center located at 866 4th Ave SE.  Interested volunteers can register for this orientation by emailing me at kristin@cmc-cr.org.