CINCINNATI, OH, January 9 – Greater Cincinnati has a new nonprofit with a mission to advocate for the improvement of the lives of refugees, to foster community acceptance and inclusion of refugees, and to construct a sustainable support system that empowers new Americans on the path to self-sufficiency. The nonprofit, RefugeeConnect, has a vision to influence the Greater Cincinnati community to become the most welcoming city in America for refugees.
In 2011, the Junior League of Cincinnati (JLC) conducted a community scan of unmet needs affecting women and children in the area as part of its program development process. The research found lack of coordinated services for refugees. After two years of investigation, the Junior League identified more than 40 community partners interested in sharing resources and responsibilities regarding the success, integration, and care of refugees. In 2013, the Junior League of Cincinnati began a 5-year nonprofit incubation process for RefugeeConnect, adding it to more than 120 programs that have been incubated or impacted by the JLC in its 97-year history.
Now RefugeeConnect is launching as an independent nonprofit organization in Greater Cincinnati with over 100 organizations participating in the community partner network, the Refugee Empowerment Initiative (REI). RefugeeConnect leads REI in partnership with the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue at Xavier University as a collaborative, region-wide networking platform of resettlement agencies, local governments, businesses, and other community-based organizations to build relationships, share needs, and co-create solutions for a more sustainable and continuous support system for refugees in Cincinnati.
Greater Cincinnati has approximately 25,000 refugees, with 200-300 new refugees resettling in the area every year and 278 new arrivals in 2017. Refugee populations in Greater Cincinnati include New Americans from Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia and Syria.
RefugeeConnect provides resource support to both new arrivals and the existing refugee community through RefugeeConnect’s Ambassador and Navigator initiatives address barriers by working directly with refugee communities and providing technical assistance to businesses, nonprofits, and volunteers to increase cultural competency and holistic services to ensure refugees successfully acclimate to their new home. The Ambassador initiative engages local industries, serves as cultural bridge, trains local organizations, and invests in volunteers through activities like RefugeeConnect’s business engagement program, which creates pathways to address community-wide employer needs through a refugee economic inclusion perspective linking refugee community members to job skills, culture training, and employment placement specialists. The RefugeeConnect business engagement program also provides on-site business training to hire and maintain refugee employees and has developed a mentoring program to connect refugees to community members in their field.
The RefugeeConnect Navigator initiative focuses on creating authentic connections that empower self-advocacy and greater community advocates. This is accomplished through activities like tutoring, mentorship, teen empowerment leadership development, and a student-led International Club through the Refugee School Impact Program.
RefugeeConnect aims to bring refugees, their stories, and issues they may face into the awareness of the Cincinnati community. As our natural-born population decreases, refugees play a vital role in sustaining our population, strengthening our economy, and increasing our community’s vibrancy.
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