The Refugee Response (TRR) is in the business of providing a sense of home, of community and belonging, and of self-sufficiency and accomplishment to many who lost basic safety and security in their own countries. Each year, around 500 to 700 refugees arrive in Cleveland from countries like Myanmar, Bhutan, Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They must overcome many challenges and make Cleveland their new home for themselves and their families. Thankfully, as Patrick Kearns, the Executive Director of The Refugee Response, pointed out: Cleveland has a robust refugee community and a large number of organizations and institutions working together to provide needed services and support.
Some common barriers that refugee families face include: learning English, finding employment, and, for children, succeeding in school in a new and unfamiliar country and culture. The Refugee Response is uniquely positioned to provide full-time work opportunities to refugees on Ohio City Farm through their Refugee Empowerment Agricultural Program (REAP) until they can find full-time employment opportunities elsewhere in the community. Most recently, five of seven trainees received full-time employment offers following their involvement in REAP. In March, ten trainees will enter the REAP program and spend 28 hours per week working at Ohio City Farm and 12 hours in a classroom setting learning English-language skills, workplace skills, and knowledge that will help them thrive as they live and work in their new community. For the children of these refugee workers, ranging from kindergarten to 12th grade, TRR provides home-based tutoring and mentoring services which help students learn English and improve their academic performance while providing social support from mentors that helps the students feel welcomed, more at ease, and more confident living in a new place. 45 students and volunteer mentors are currently in this program which will expand to 50-60 starting in May in preparation for next school year.
Young professionals can connect with TRR and the refugee community by volunteering in the Home Tutoring Program and REAP and by visiting or participating in services that support the refugees’ farm work. Fresh produce from Ohio City Farm can be purchased from their farm stand on Fridays and Saturdays between June and November, and they even have a subscription service called Community Supported Agriculture that allows individuals and families to receive fresh produce weekly for 20 weeks as well as donate shares of produce to local families in need.
Additionally, TRR plans to hold its annual REAP the Benefit event on August 26 this year which is a unique and fun opportunity to support the families they work with while enjoying music and cultural experiences from around the world. To keep up-to-date with their programs, sign up to receive their e-newsletter, read stories of refugees and their families, or consider opportunities to get involved with TRR, visit refugeeresponse.org.
Images courtesy of The Refugee Response.