Through its membership in the Refugee Council USA, CAL’s Immigrant and Refugee Integration (IRI) project team joined a receiving communities initiative, known asThe Linking Communities Project: Creating Welcome for Refugees, which is administered by the international non-governmental organization HIAS.
IRI is working in partnership with HIAS and several other agencies on this 2013-2014 pilot project, supported by the J.M. Kaplan Fund, to facilitate the creation of linkages between refugees and receiving communities, initially in the states of Ohio and Pennsylvania and now expanding to the states of North Carolina and Texas. Elements of the project include delivery of small grants to support implementation of selected local projects and compilation of lessons learned.
As members of the project planning committee, IRI staff actively contribute to development of needs assessments, engage in discussion regarding the purpose and content of state meetings, and plan for pre- and post-meeting communications and selection of grantees. This involvement resulted in IRI being selected by HIAS and the project planning team to design and facilitate state stakeholder meetings, for the purpose of training participants on selected topics, facilitating collaboration among them, and initiating action planning for grant proposals.
Stakeholder meetings have drawn from a broad range of attendees from throughout each state, including representatives of local resettlement agencies, ethnic community-based organizations, state and local government, schools, and other service providers. These rich networking opportunities, coupled with animated discussions about ways to strengthen refugee integration at the local and state level, result in groups of stakeholders from local communities or state communities strategizing as to how they might collaborate to facilitate interaction between refugees and longer-term community members.