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.



Welcoming Refugee Americorps

This week, our ECDC Refugee AmeriCorps Program Specialist Elizabeth Carlberg wrote about ECDC’s new Americorps program, and reflected on the importance of Americorps Week (March 7-11). 

On behalf of ECDC, I am happy to announce that our Refugee AmeriCorps program is underway! Developing the program has been in the works for years, and I am really grateful to have come on board in November to help get the program off the ground. It is truly fulfilling to see everyone’s hard work finally come to fruition!

ECDC’s Refugee AmeriCorps officially began on February 8, and as of this week 9 of our 10 members are in service. This week is also AmeriCorps Week 2016, a time to recognize the change effected by AmeriCorps members and alums across the country.  So, this is great timing to acknowledge the effort and dedication of all those involved in the program, particularly the amazing staff at our affiliates and their new AmeriCorps members. I also encourage you all to go to social media this week to  share how #AmeriCorpsWorks in your communities throughout the country.

As for our program, ECDC’s Refugee AmeriCorps members will be increasing economic opportunity and self-sufficiency for resettled refugees across  10 ECDC affiliate and branch offices that serve as the program’s operating sites. We look forward to sharing more details of their efforts as the year progresses.

To create this program, ECDC joined with the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) in the AmeriCorps Partnership Challenge, where nonprofit organizations (like ECDC) and their funding partners (like ORR) develop programs to address community needs by engaging individuals as AmeriCorps members. ECDC is one of many voluntary agencies who have partnered with ORR to create new AmeriCorps programs under the Partnership Challenge. Of course, this program could not be possible without the team effort between ECDC National Office and our affiliate and branch offices across the country.

As an AmeriCorps alum myself, I vouch for the amazing impact the AmeriCorps program has on communities and individuals, both those being served and those serving. I am proud to be  “Made in AmeriCorps,” and I hope our Refugee AmeriCorps members will benefit from their service experience as much as I have. In fact, I see it as my job to ensure that they do.

In closing, welcome to our first cohort of Refugee AmeriCorps members and best of luck in your service year!

In service,

Elizabeth Carlberg, ECDC Refugee AmeriCorps Program Specialist

AmeriCorps engages more than 75,000 members in intensive service annually to serve through nonprofit, faith-based, and community organizations at 25,000 locations across the country. These members help communities tackle pressing problems while mobilizing millions of volunteers for the organizations they serve. Since 1994, more than 900,000 Americans have provided more than 1.2 billion hours of service to their communities and country through AmeriCorps. For more information, visit

AmeriCorps is a program of the Corporation for National and Community Service, a federal agency that engages more than 5 million Americans in service through its AmeriCorps, Senior Corps, Social Innovation Fund, and Volunteer Generation Fund programs, and leads the President’s national call to service initiative, United We Serve.

Current Spotlight: African Refugee Crises

Since the outbreak of the Middle-East conflicts, attention on African refugees has significantly reduced, though the crisis continues in the African continent. UNHCR estimates the numbers of people of concern in African countries in 2015 is nearly about 14.9 million people.

It is likely the scale of displacement will increase in the years ahead due to instability and humanitarian crisis in different parts of Africa, mainly in Central African Republic (CAR), South Sudan, Somalia, Eritrea, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Côte d’Ivoire, Burundi and Mali.

For decades, political volatility, sectarian violence, weather emergencies and other disasters, such as the Ebola epidemic, have been the key sources for displacement and migration of refugees in this region, yet little attention has been given to overcome this long-lasting crisis.

According to UNHCR, sub-Saharan Africa is the host to the largest number of refugees—nearly 4.1 million—and North Africa alone is the host for nearly 3 million refugees. Among other African countries, Ethiopia is the largest refugee-hosting country in Africa and the fifth largest worldwide.

The scale of displacement on the African continent has continually increased due to shifting political climates and often unforeseen new challenges. Since the eruption of conflict in South Sudan in December 2013, there has been a significant increase in the number of internal displacement, resulting to some 1.3 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) and an influx of over 450,000 refugees, mostly women and children, into the neighboring countries.

The ongoing crisis in and around CAR has produced up to a million IDPs and around 180,000 refugees. Currently, there are almost one million Somali refugees around East and Horn of Africa, and most of them have lived in camps for over 20 years. Thousands of unaccompanied Eritrean children continue to flee without their parents or guardians each year, and according to UNHCR during just October 2014, about 5,000 Eritreans had escaped into Ethiopia and additional thousands escaped into Sudan.

The number of IDPs and refugees across African continents are on the rise, while the third-generation refugees are still struggling in many refugee camps without any prospect for a stable future. There is a need to raise humanitarian efforts and allocate additional resources and programs for the protection of African refugees, while seeking an appropriate durable solution to the world’s most protracted refugees in the history of mankind.

Mobile Apps and Technology for Case Workers and Clients

The app store and internet are overflowing with programs that can help you and your clients – but finding the right, high quality programs that meet your needs can be a challenge. Therefore, we have gathered some promising programs that can help case workers manage their caseloads and help refugees thrive.

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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:


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.”

Braving the Winters in Turkey: One Way to Help Syrian Refugees

Every day we wake up to news about the worsening Syrian refugee crisis and are left wondering what we can do to help.  Based on reports, approximately four million Syrians have fled their county, and six million are internally displaced.

Looking at the numbers we may think that our individual efforts may not make a difference, but collectively there is a lot we can do to help.

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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)

Greeks Supporting Migrants—A Young Greek Perspective on Mass Migration to Europe

Generation 2.0 for Rights, equality, and Diversity (Courtesy of website)

When people refer to the mass refugee flows from Syria and most recently from Afghanistan as a “migrant crisis,” it only preserves the distorted image most people in Europe and the rest of the world have about these people.

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#FeelGoodFriday: Branch Office ACC Denver Makes Local News with Scholarship Fund

One of our branch offices, African Community Center (ACC) of Denver, made the local news this week with the great work they have done resettling refugees and investing in their lives and futures. See the full story here, or read the story below.

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