Opening Doors for New Americans since 1882
Around the world, the United Nations High Commission on Refugees estimates that 15.3 million people have fled their home countries to escape conflict or persecution. Many find their way to refugee camps in neighboring countries, where they live in poor conditions with limited food rations and few opportunities for work or study. They may end up spending 5, 10 or even 20 years in these camps with little hope of returning home. More than half of all refugees live in urban areas, where they may be at risk of being detained by local authorities. All refugees face three possible solutions: voluntary repatriation, local integration or resettlement to a third country.
Of all the refugees around the world, less than one percent are given a new beginning by being resettled in another country. The United States welcomes approximately 70,000 to 80,000 refugees on a yearly basis. HIAS Pennsylvania partners with the federal government to help resettle refugees in Philadelphia. The organization has been helping Jewish refugees for nearly 130 years. Recently it has resettled refugees from Syria, Bhutan, Burma (primarily Chin and Karen), Eritrea, Sudan, Congo, the Former Soviet Union, Nepal, Afghanistan, Burma, Iran and Iraq. In the past few years, the Refugee Resettlement Program has grown by 750%, from resettling 25 refugees in 2008 to 189 refugees in 2014.
The Refugee Resettlement Program provides a full range of supportive services to newly arrived refugees. Services are divided into three main areas:
Reception and Placement: Our services begin before a refugee family arrives by helping them to find a safe and secure place to live, furnishing it with donated household goods and furniture, arranging a hot, home-cooked meal, and greeting them at the airport. Case managers help refugee families get Social Security cards, access public benefits, and receive a thorough medical screening from one of the partner refugee health clinics at PENN Center for Primary Care for adults or Children's Hospital of Pennsylvania.
Employment and Education Support: Self-sufficiency is promoted by connecting refugees to employment-focused ESL classes with our partner, District 1199C. The case-management staff facilitates job placement and job counseling for newly arrived refugees.
Community Integration and Orientation: We conduct community-orientation workshops, which include sessions on financial literacy and the U.S. health-care system. We recruit volunteers and interns to be American Friends and mentor newly arrived refugee families.
We also work to provide self-sufficiency through other intiatives:
Gardening Initiative: We facilitate the creation of community gardens for refugees, especially in Northeast Philadelphia, where there are limited social services. Gardens are great ways to integrate refugees into the broader community through the universal language of food, and allow them a sense of autonomy by growing their own produce.