Our group had our second client meeting for ReEstablish Richmond on Wednesday September 23rd. We met with Kimberly, the director of ReEstablish, Lauren, an intern, and another group of VCU students also doing work for a class in a reserved room in the library to discuss a plan of action for the semester and have a standard introduction/orientation for volunteering. We also got a more in depth understanding for what ReEstablish Richmond specifically does for the refugee community.
There are 4 basic programs the organization focuses on: Job Preparation, Housing, Agri-Culture, and Education. ReEstablish Richmond is a non-profit organization provides culturally competent programs that meet the needs of refugees in our community. This means essentially filling in the gaps between what the government is providing for refugees and what refugees still feel they need. These things range from ESL classes and driver’s education classes, bus navigation, etc. (Education Programs). Job Fairs and community engagement events also give the refugees an opportunity to network and work on establishing a career here in America. ReEstablish volunteers help with workshops and integrate the refugees in the community by gardening and having conversation. Kimberly provided a powerpoint slideshow elaborating on each of these things ReEstablish does for the community which gave our group a better sense of what the organization actually does.
We also discussed some useful tools for when communicating with the refugees, and for the struggles we may face because of the language barrier. I found it very interesting and important to note that the refugees are considered having Limited English Proficiency (LEP), meaning they don’t speak english or that english is not their primary language. As a room we talked out different ways it could be useful when either speaking to someone who speaks another language and also when yourself is the one who speaks the minority language. Some tools the groups suggested were gestures, patience on both sides, using a translator, finding familiarities in both languages, being educated about their culture and customs, having visuals to explain things, applying emphasis on certain words, exhausting words and rephrasing them so that the person really understands what you mean. Kimberly also went over how both groups could utilize these tools with the jobs she has given us. We are assigned to interviewing the refugees about their origin stories and experience coming to America, so we all agreed that all of the communicating tools will be useful and that we would definitely keep them in mind when conducting the interviews.
Kimberly’s powerpoint included a slide titled ‘Who is a refugee?’. We went around the room giving our perceptions of this question. A refugee is someone who has migrated from another country due to religious, ethnic, or political persecution. They are usually fleeing some sort of fear. Something I wasn’t aware of was that being a refugee is a completely legal status. They are someone that is an invited guest who has been requested by the U.S. to come over. Richmond is part of this placement and the city is actually at overcapacity. The different kinds of refugees here in Richmond, VA are all made up of Bhutan, Iraqi, Afghani, Burmese, and Cuban populations. Like Kimberly said before, we will mostly be working with the Iraqi and Afghani community.
To get a better idea of the typical day of a refugee or what it’s like when they first arrive here, Kimberly and Lauren explained the resettlement process. The refugees are provided housing , entry-level jobs, and ESL classes by the government. ReEstablish Richmond is a non-profit organization, meaning they are not paid or funded for helping the refugees. Like stated before, ReEstablish is filling the gaps of things the refugees still need, for example the non-profit provides Bus Orientation, which is a day volunteers go to the clients’ home to meet and take them on bus routes to appointments and teach them how to get around. Lauren described a refugees days as never really being typical, because in the first months getting here they are so busy with appointments and settling into their new lives. Kimberly stressed that knowing our roles at the agency was important, because you don’t want to make promises or get a client’s hopes up for something we can’t fulfill.
Overall, I think the meeting was very informative and answered a lot of the questions our group had from the first client meeting. Kimberly told us that Sunday she has a community meeting where she will get the dates for the upcoming workshops that our group will be participating in. From there, she will also inform us on things we can do leading up to the interviews. We have drafted interview questions and are emailing Kimberly with those to look over and give us feedback on so that we are prepared when the time comes to conduct the questionnaires.