Refugee Resettlement Case Study

Today I am beginning a resettlement case study.  You are welcome to follow along and comment or question as needed.

Tomorrow we will receive two Karenni families from Burma who have been living in a refugee camp in Thailand.  Lutheran Social Services (LSS) has a large number of families arriving over the next few weeks and requested our help.  We have never helped resettle two families simultaneously.  We have never received a family biography just one day before their arrival.

What we do know is that every resettlement experience is different from every other one.  Yet there are certain principles that hold true each time.  We are an experienced team and it looks like we’ll have 12-15 team members to help pull this off.  That’s a good number to help share the load.

I will attempt to capture the major accomplishments and related stories on this blog so that you can see how it works through our example.  At the same time I will be making final edits to my refugee resettlement how-to guide.  Be sure to come back regularly to see our progress.  Also get your name on my mailing list so I can let you know when the book becomes available.

Instructional DVDs for Refugees

Belmont University’s Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE) team has put together a training video which can be used to show newly arrived refugees how to use a bank to work with their money.  The video is published in several languages to that you can, ideally, show the video in the language of the refugees.  (There is an English language version as well so you can watch the lessons.)

The video progresses through Opening an Account at the bank, to Making a Deposit, Writing a Check to pay bills and for cash, Using the ATM to make a withdrawal, Using an ATM Card to pay for groceries, and Keeping a Ledger to keep the balance straight.

The video is concise and yet provides the basics for each lesson. 

I find it amusing that the “recently arrived refugee” in the video is named John Doe, having no ethnicity to it whatsoever.  However, that also keeps it completely neutral so as to not offend any particular ethnic group that may be watching.

The other thing I enjoyed was after John Doe made his first deposit at the bank, the narrator said, “He once again is a content man.”  It was funny, and yet it matched the posture and stride of John as he was leaving the bank.  Just a little comment to make banking, what could otherwise be quite dry, into a fun session.

Besides the Money and Banking DVD, others in the works include Healthcare, Transportation, Public Safety, Education, and Employment.  Languages currently include Kirundi, Swahili, and Somali.  I hope the number of languages are expanded upon in the future.

For contact information see:

Refugee Needs in Down Economy

I just read an opinion article in the local newspaper.  Its title, “Let’s Not Neglect Refugees’ Needs” is a great reminder.  The article is also nicely done.

During good times it’s relatively easy to find employment for recently arrived refugees.  Afterall, the types of jobs they are willing to take are often those that the average person would not want.  But, during down times it can be hard to find employment and to even keep employment.  The competition from the native population is stronger and language barriers may cause difficulties.

While refugees are generally survivors by nature, our role in resettlement is to help them become (and stay) self-sufficient.  This increases the awareness of our own needs to help them in a way that provides lasting results.  We cannot always predict which jobs are going to last, but we can teach a base of knowledge to help them get through the problems when they arise.

Resettlement Book in Review

The draft of my new refugee resettlement book, basically a how-to-guide for resettlement volunteers, is currently being reviewed by several of the US government approved refugee resettlement agencies including:

It is also being reviewed by the UNHCR office in Washington D.C.

I am excited that these organizations are taking a look at the material and have offered to provide some feedback. 

The working title of the book is “10 Million to 1“.  If you would like to be among the first notified of major developments including its release and availability please submit your name and email address in the form to the right.

Writing the Book on Refugee Resettlement

I am writing a book, a how-to guide, on refugee resettlement.  Today someone asked me how I got involved in writing the book.  As I replied to her email I thought this might make a good post to the blog.

I have worked with refugee families since 2001.  Our first family arrived on September 7.  They were living in our house when the events of 9/11 unfolded.  While we didn’t have a common language at that point we could understand the concern that the war had followed them from home.  Trying to offer some comfort, I pulled out a map of the U.S. and showed Wisconsin and showed New York.  Not that any U.S. citizens were feeling good at that time, but we did what we could to settle the nerves of our guests.

Just a month or two before that I pulled together a team at our church in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  We were working with Lutheran Social Services.  Since then we’ve helped 5 more families directly, have acted as an anchor for 3 families (2 sponsored by other churches), and have contributed efforts to many other refugee families arriving in the area.  I have spoken to a number of different churches to get them involved.  Our group has been recognized for its efforts as we’ve had a very successful program.

One thing that we’ve seen with other churches is high levels of stress and chaos among the volunteers.  It occurred to me that we do things well and we’ve got somewhat of a system worked out.  Therefore this should be communicated to others.  I was inspired to write a book in hopes that volunteers all over the country would have a resource they could follow.  And, with proper positioning perhaps we can even get more people involved in this worthwhile endeavor.  My goal is that by 2030 my efforts are directly and indirectly responsible for 10,000,000 refugees finding home!

Welcome to Resettlement Support!

This blog is dedicated to refugee resettlement.  If you are part of the global community involved in resettling refugees from their places of refuge to their new homes, then this is the place for you.  My hope is that this blog becomes a thriving forum for help and advice for those involved in this world-changing endeavor. 

Together, let’s help 10 million refugees find home.