In the previous post, I talked about the refugee resettlement—how it’s the least-preferred of several options. Today, I outline the rough timeline refugees face during their first five years in the USA. At the end, I mention how we can help refugees through relational language exposure.
When a refugee has been assigned to a local affiliate, that local agency prepares a furnished apartment before meeting them at the airport. (You can actually volunteer to serve as a welcome team and perform these and/or other tasks on the list: visit www.rstx.org/welcome-teams.)
During the first week
…refugees learn about food and medical benefits and visit Social Security.
Within the first 30 days
…they receive many core services, including cultural and home orientations, grocery shopping help, health screenings, and immunizations. Also, adults must register for English classes, and children must enroll in school. Finally, they also learn about transportation options, employment, and childcare.
The loudest message is always about the necessity of work, because the clock is ticking on their benefits. Put yourself in their shoes! For some of them, they’ve spent their entire life as nomads, or as subsistence farmers, never learning an alphabet or organizing their life around a clock. Now, the only way to survive is to turn your back on your deepest cultural values and establish a consistent schedule of difficult factory work.
Put yourself in their shoes! For some of them, they’ve spent their entire life as nomads, or as subsistence farmers, never learning an alphabet or organizing their life around a clock. Now, the only way to survive is to turn your back on your deepest cultural values and establish a consistent schedule of difficult factory work.
At six months
…benefits run out and refugees must begin repayment of their travel loan from the IOM (International Organization for Migration).
At the one year mark
…they are required to apply for a Green Card.
Finally, at five years
…the resettlement agency can no longer offer their services. Additionally, this is the benchmark after which refugees can legally apply for citizenship.
Somehow, many refugees succeed in spite of the horrendous odds against them. By success I mean that many refugees find a way to maintain a regular job and provide for their families. Unfortunately, these same refugees are often lonely and isolated. A precious few manage to establish healthy relationships in the community. Fewer still manage to learn English well enough to get accepted into a local institute of higher learning. At the same time, many refugees fall through the cracks in our community. They try an English class or two, but after struggling they decide that they are incapable of learning our language. They give up.
A vast majority are not incapable of this task. They need relationships with English speakers!
A vast majority are not incapable of this task. Instead, they need relationships with English speakers! Through stuttering, and miming, drawing, and smiling, relationships can be established. Relationships provide the intrinsic motivation to learn language. It is through personal relationship that people experience healing, transformation, and health. This is how we were made, because God is three in one. God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit enjoy communion with one another, and it is in this relational image that we were created.
Through stuttering, and miming, drawing, and smiling, relationships can be established. Relationships provide the intrinsic motivation to learn language.
So the Refugee Language Project is not a resettlement project. Instead, we are focused on only two things. First, we offer strategic English learning opportunities in our region. Second, we foster relationships between the refugee population and local residents. These two aims will be accomplished in tandem, through the development of relationships. If you’re interested in learning more, send us a message!