RefugeeConnect, a new nonprofit, embraces refugees

Parade of Nations at the opening ceremonies of World Refugee Day Cup 2017 (photo by Dyah Miller)

RefugeeConnect, a new nonprofit born out of a research project by the Junior League of Cincinnati, will begin work to make Greater Cincinnati the most welcoming area in the country for refugees.

Greater Cincinnati has approximately 25,000 refugees, with 200 to 300 new arrivals every year. These individuals come from Bhutan, Burma, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Rwanda, Somalia and Syria.

RefugeeConnect will work to improve refugees’ lives, foster acceptance and inclusion, and construct a sustainable support system that sends new Americans on the path to self-sufficiency.

The need for such an organization was revealed in a study begun In 2011 by the Junior League of Cincinnati. The research found a lack of coordinated services for refugees.

In two years of investigation, Junior League identified more than 40 community partners interested in sharing resources and responsibilities regarding the success, integration and care of refugees. And in 2013, Junior League began a five-year nonprofit incubation process for RefugeeConnect, adding it to more than 120 programs the organization has started or helped in its 97-year history.

RefugeeConnect is an independent nonprofit group with over 100 organizations participating in the community partner network, the Refugee Empowerment Initiative.

RefugeeConnect leads REI in partnership with the Brueggeman Center for Dialogue at Xavier University as a collaborative, regionwide networking platform. That network includes resettlement agencies, local governments, businesses and other community-based organizations. Their challenge is to build relationships, share needs and create solutions for a continuous support system for refugees in Cincinnati.

RefugeeConnect provides resource support to both new arrivals and the existing refugee community through two initiatives:

  • The Ambassador initiative engages local industries, serves as cultural bridge, trains local organizations and invests in volunteers through activities such as RefugeeConnect’s business engagement program. That program links refugees to job skills, cultural training and employment placement specialists. It will also provide 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 Navigator initiative focuses on creating connections through tutoring, mentorship, teen empowerment leadership development and a student-led International Club.

Robyn Lamont, or

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