CDHS Study: Refugees Integrate Well In Colorado

This month, representatives from the African Community Center (ACC) Denver spoke on Colorado Matters radio to discuss a new study commissioned by the Colorado Refugee Services Program. The Refugee Integration Survey and Evaluation (RISE) Study focused on understanding refugee integration in Colorado over a five-year period, and the findings show that the cohort as a while progressed steadily towards “High Integration”: At each baseline, hours of employment, family income, English language proficiency, and citizenship applications increased dramatically.

Click the link below for the interview with Kit Taintor, Colorado State Refugee Coordinator, and Ganga Uprety, ACC Denver’s TANF Liaison.

http://www.cpr.org/news/story/cdhs-study-refugees-integrate-well-colorado

 

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U.S. Refugee Youth Consultation Reflection

The first ever U.S. Refugee Youth Consultation was held in Washington, D.C. from February 20-22, 2016. There were 25 refugee and asylum-seeking youth from 13 different countries at the event. Four youth represented ECDC at the consultation, two from the African Community Center in Denver, Colorado (an ECDC branch office) and two from The Acculturation for Justice, Access, and Peace Outreach in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (an ECDC affiliate).

During the two-and-a-half-day consultation, the youth engaged in an art project to share their stories and they led several brainstorming sessions to identify the root causes, impacts, and possible solutions for four challenges faced by youth before, during, and after migration: 1) educational barriers, 2) struggles with cultural adjustment, 3) language barriers, and 4) discrimination/bullying.

Following the consultation, three youth participants from ECDC shared their thoughts about the consultation and how they plan to help their community.

ECDC Youth

Prabhat Adhikari (Bhutan)

“As a participant of the first ever Refugee Youth Consultation in the U.S., I had an amazing experience connecting with other youth members from incredibly diverse backgrounds. The consultation allowed me to learn about their stories and provided a platform to share my own.

The activity I liked the most was the table discussion session in which we talked about the most important challenges faced by refugee and migrant youth. By working in teams, and speaking from our collective experiences, we were able to come up with a lot of ideas about the causes, impacts, and possible solutions to these challenges; the summary of which was presented at the stakeholder meeting.

Overall, I think the consultation was very productive, and I am confident that it will inspire positive change that will help refugee and migrant youth in the future.”

Muhammad Ibraim Soe (Burma)

“As refugees and immigrants arrive in a new country, it feels like they are starting their life all over again. When I first came to the U.S., I could not attend high school because of my age. On my identification card my age was listed as 18, but that was not my real age. When I realized that, I lost my hopes and dreams. A month later, I found a school called the New America School for students between the ages of 18 to 21. Even there, I felt like I had to start all over again. The education system was new and I had to juggle between ESL and credit course requirements. I managed to attend school full-time and work full-time. I worked hard and did not give up my studies.

Now, I accomplished my first goal – I got my high school diploma and enrolled in college. My wish is to help newly arrived refugees in my community to navigate the school system, assist them in translating school materials, and create a better support network.”

Gregoire Paluku  (Democratic Republic of Congo)

“The U.S. Refugee Youth Consultation was the most amazing program for me. I loved the connection, the teamwork, support, and most of all I liked how the organizing committee members saw potential in each of us. One thing I learned from this consultation is how to help other people by being an advocate for them. During the consultation, the 25 of us worked together and became like a family. It made me realize that together we can make a change and we can be that one loud voice.

I plan to share the knowledge I gained during the consultation with my fellow refugees. Together, we will try to find the root causes of the problems we are facing as newly arrived refugees, discuss on how it affects us and our community, and then come up with solutions on how to prevent it from happening again.”

Get Involved and “Welcome Refugees”

Over the past year, many of us have followed the refugee and migrant tragedies in the news, from halfway across the globe. It has been painful and difficult in many ways, and has often left us feeling helpless.

In the United States, many of us have been witnesses to anti-refugee sentiments, even in the local level, particularly with the 31 state governors that have opposed refugees coming to their state. We are saddened to see such disturbing language used by our elected officials. Fortunately, in the communities of our affiliates we have seen overwhelming amounts of support, donations, and volunteers stepping up with welcome refugees in their own ways.

In preparation for our 22nd annual national conference, ECDC has created “Welcome Refugees” stickers and pins to help raise and spread awareness about refugee issues going on in locations all over the world. These stickers also tie into our conference’s theme of moving from “beyond shelter” to a more durable and safe solution in resettlement and integration.

Welcome Refugees Stickers-Pins Final

If you’d like to show your support for refugees and migrants resettling in the United States, consider purchasing a sticker and/or pin from us, and share photos of yourself and your new badge of support!

Email Kim Toft at ktoft@ecdcus.org for more information about ordering. Also, click the link below to fill out an order form:

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1YC7ku1c_lLAyEt7ICnVoQ7Ta8uZrJABxVUun_eQ_UHk/viewform

Note: Thanks to Kathy Edson at the Nashville International Center for Empowerment (NICE) and Alex Tapper at Compound Creative for the design and rights to use their image.

2015 First Refugee Thanksgiving

This Sunday was our annual First Refugee Thanksgiving, where we invites refugees from our communities in the Washington, D.C. area to celebrate their first Thanksgiving in the United States with us. Check out some of our photos below!

Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Amy Pope (second left) helps serve food to our refugees.

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Katherine Parra (left) and Erick Pierola (right) enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together. Both are originally from Bolivia and arrived to the United States at the ages of 11 and 7, respectively.

Katherine Parra (left) and Erick Pierola (right) enjoying Thanksgiving dinner together. Both are originally from Bolivia and arrived to the United States at the ages of 11 and 7, respectively.

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Children enjoying the festivities with their families.

Children enjoying the festivities with their families.

Clients of a variety of ages and nationalities celebrating the evening through dance.

Clients of a variety of ages and nationalities celebrating the evening through dance.

Why I Got Into Refugee Work: Meron

With so many stories in the news today about refugees, we wanted to do something different and share stories from our headquarters about why and how they got into working with refugees, and how it has inspired them. This week, our IT coordinator Meron shared her story:

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Meron (right) with friends Bethlehem and Selam (L-R)

No one understands what being a refugee means unless they’ve been through a similar journey: one that is filled with doubt about what the future holds, but yet filled with hope and dreams, that there may be light at the end of the tunnel.

Even though refugees flee from their country for many reasons, whether it is to avoid prosecution or war, they’re searching for one common thing; peace. For me, “refugee” was just a word that I heard on the news until I came to work at ECDC.

The news mostly talked about why refugees would flee their country and the camps they stayed in until a solution is found. However, working at ECDC gave me a new perspective on what happens to refugees when they reach their final destination.

The fact that I’m fortunate enough to work for this organization and to contribute indirectly for the well-being of refugees is a satisfaction by itself.

Three years ago through mutual friends, I met and became friends with a very lovely young lady named Mahlet. She was a refugee from Eritrea, and traveled through Ethiopia and Kenya until she finally arrived in Texas and then moved to Washington, DC where she was reunited with her brothers and mother.

I wasn’t even aware that she was a refugee until that day and I was shocked to hear her stories. As I was listening to her, I could never imagine what she had gone through, and even more share her difficult stories with someone she had just met. I really felt like I was watching a movie sitting there looking at her with my mouth wide open.

More than anything, I was amazed by how she was expressing her situation in very simple terms, as if she was telling a story.  I was fascinated not only by how brave she was to share her journey but also how she still managed to have a smile on her face as she did it.

Refugees should be admired for their courage to move on, even when circumstances were making it harder for them.  As the saying goes “what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger.”

Success Stories: Syrian family hoping to make Tampa their home (via WFLA)

A FANTASTIC example of our affiliates’ hard work to welcome Syrian refugees with open arms and help them rebuild their lives. Great work, Coptic Orthodox Charities!

Source: Syrian family hoping to make Tampa their home (via WFLA News Channel 8)

Success Stories: Bon Breads Baking Co, Inc., Las Vegas, NV

During a September visit to the African Community Center (ACC) resettlement office in Las Vegas, Nevada, ECDC’s Matching Grant Program Officer Kim Toft  made a visit to Bon Breads Baking Co, Inc., a wholesale bakery that employs resettled refugees in the area.

Bon Breads Exterior

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