We would be lying if we we said we haven’t faced discouragement in looking at how much more disconnected we are with refugee communities than we were pre-pandemic. Those once-thriving relationships are in need of another round of hard work and time spent listening. We will probably have to adjust—again—how we do things, how we cultivate community, and how we interact and talk to leaders (so much has shifted in just two short years!). It’s a bit deflating to take all of that in and think about what it really means.
However, as we are reconnecting with other refugee organizations and programs in our city, we are hearing the same kinds of reports. “Our numbers are down.” “Nobody is coming to class.” “I am trying to connect with my friends, but things have changed.” A monthly gathering of these colleagues and friends at the Refugee Advisory Council (pictured above) has begun happening at the PLACE. It has been encouraging to hear that we are not the only ones revamping, rekindling and asking hard questions. These meetings are providing camaraderie, encouragement and a place to recognize we are not alone in the struggle.
The RLP team recently visited a local ESL program to observe their classes and learn how they are adjusting to smaller groups of students themselves. We benefited from watching teachers who have been doing this for far longer than we have, and walked away with ideas of how to improve our own classes. In collaborating and having honest conversations with local partners about all of our failures and successes, we can strengthen the networks, resources and effectiveness of programs across the city.