Community

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Community.

This word just keeps coming up again and again. As many of y’all know, we’ve been going through a strategic planning process over the last four months, mapping out our Long Welcome Plan for refugees.  We’ve conducted hours of interviews and focus groups, researched best practices from across the country, and worked with consultants to develop a Theory of Change and analyze our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (a “SWOT Analysis” for those experts reading this). And through it all, we keep finding that word. Community.

It’s in our mission statement, it’s in our origin story, it’s a strength, a weakness, an opportunity and a threat all at once. We can’t seem to discuss a single objective or strategy without talking about our community, how we need you, how you affect us, how we impact each other. Community, community, community.

It’s clearly core to who we are—and who we will become. We’re really excited to start unveiling our Long Welcome strategy with you all in the next few weeks (watch this space for some exciting announcements!). But here’s one thing we can tell you all right now: There is no way to carry any of it out without deep involvement from y’all, our Community, at every step of the process.    

With all that in mind, we’ve got an exciting new opportunity coming your way in the next few weeks—April 4th to be precise. We aren’t going to give any more details just yet, but mark your calendars. Watch this space. Get excited.

Why refugee resettlement is worth fighting for

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When we started the grueling groundwork of launching a resettlement site here in Northwest Arkansas three years ago, we did so because we believed we had something special to offer refugees in our community. What we didn’t yet know was just how much they had to offer us. Today, here is what we see:

Northwest Arkansas is an excellent home for refugees— and refugees are excellent for Northwest Arkansas.

Our diverse communities of faith surround our refugee families with unwavering love and support… And in turn, our refugee families bring their diverse perspectives, beliefs and practices to our faith communities and offer them the chance to collaborate with each other across denominational and religious boundaries.

Our many world-class employers offer our refugee clients good jobs with living wages… And in turn, our refugee clients meet huge and growing needs in our workforce, from the poultry industry to healthcare to shipping and logistics.

Our service providers come together and wrap around our refugee families to ensure all their basic needs are met… And then our refugee families turn right around do the same for the next ones in line, volunteering as interpreters for the very service providers who welcomed them, organizing fundraisers to support future refugee arrivals and serving as community liaisons and cultural navigators.

Our thriving arts and culture scene offers our refugee families concerts, plays, bike trails and meals that make their lives full and vibrant… And in turn, our refugee families bring colors, sounds, tastes and rhythms that we wouldn’t otherwise find in Northwest Arkansas.

Refugees challenge us to be the very best we can be as a community, all while making us better just by their presence here.

That’s why we ask you to speak up for refugees every chance you get: with your neighbors, your family members, your church members and your elected representatives. That’s why we’re taking an incredible group of pastors, veterans, teachers and service providers to Washington DC this month to share their stories in person with our elected officials. That’s why refugee resettlement is worth fighting for.

We're growing our team!

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Friends, we’re hiring and want YOU to apply. We're looking for a part-time Volunteer Coordinator and a full-time Employment Specialist to join our team starting in March. Sound like you? 

We're looking for people who are:

  • Passionate about welcome and inclusion

  • Flexible team players

  • Ready to be challenged, fail and keep learning  

  • Willing to cultivate genuine relationships with their coworkers and the people they serve

We strongly encourage applications from individuals from diverse backgrounds, especially members of our refugee and immigrant communities and those who have experience living and working in those communities. 

Think you might be a good fit? Know someone who would be perfect for this?

We're considering applications on a rolling basis through March 1, so apply now!

Charting a Course for a Long Welcome

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Just like that, it’s February and 2019 is officially underway! We’ve got lots of exciting things planned for this year: a trip to Washington DC to meet with our elected officials, a series of health and nutrition classes in partnership with Brightwater, a series of community orientation workshops in partnership with Tyson Foods— not to mention all of our fabulous ongoing activities like our After School Buddy program or the upcoming Refugee Camp Experience with Students for Refugees.

But our biggest— and maybe most exciting— project for the year is one we haven’t told you about yet: our Long Welcome Plan.

Up until now, our focus has been on helping our refugee families get on their feet in the first 90-180 days after they arrive and, thanks to you all, we’ve been able to do a pretty exceptional job of that! By the time we close our families’ cases, they are financially self-sufficient and able to navigate basic resources in the community on their own. They can get by day to day without help from us, which is pretty remarkable considering many of them come here with no English and absolutely no connections to the community.

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But getting by is a far cry from what we want for our families. We want all of our families to become full, contributing members of our community, to truly belong here and to build the futures that they envision for themselves here. And that is a much longer journey, one that takes years— not months— one that requires a much bigger vision, a lot more resources and a far wider network of partnerships.

Two years into this work, it’s time for us to start thinking about what that should look like, about what it means for our community to continue to welcome and support our families along their journeys for the long haul.

The Long Welcome.

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But what does that mean? What should it look like? What resources and partnerships do we need to make it happen? That’s what we’re committing to find out this year. Over the next 4-5 months, we’re going to be working with some terrific partners to develop a Long Welcome Strategy. This strategy will lay out a vision for how we at Canopy can collaborate with all of you in our community to support and surround refugee families along their journeys toward full integration. It will outline new partnerships we need to develop, new programs we need to fund and new resources we need to make available to our families.

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We think the most important voices in this process are those of our refugee clients and we’ve already had the chance to sit down and listen to over a dozen of them— male and female, young and old, from the Congo, Iraq, Cameroon and Ukraine— as they’ve shared their ideas and vision with us. We’ve also had the chance to hear from some of our co-sponsors and community partners, and we’ll continue to work closely with them as this plan comes together.

But we also want to hear from you. In fact, we need to hear from you! Yes, you, whoever you are, reading this post right now. What does refugee integration look like to you? What does it mean for your refugee neighbors to belong to our community? What do you want to see from them? What do you want to see from us? Let us know your thoughts by taking this short 4-question survey.

Thank you for joining with us as we chart our course for a Long Welcome here in Northwest Arkansas. Stay tuned as we update you on our progress!

3 Ways YOU Can Help Welcome Refugees in 2019

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Happy New Year, everyone! We have so much to look forward to in 2019 as a Canopy community:

·  As many as 56 new refugees will be joining us this year, from all over the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and others.

· As of this month, we are now certified to assist our refugee clients—and any of our other immigrant friends and neighbors—in applying for and maintaining legal immigration status and reconnecting with family members.

· Thanks to our amazing community partners, we’ll be able to offer our families community workshops, health literacy seminars and activities, women’s empowerment programs and more.

And that’s just a sneak peak of all that’s come—we’ll have a full post for you about our plans for 2019 soon.

Bottom line: it’s going to be a full, exciting year for our community, our refugee families and our organization and there are LOTS of ways for you to get involved right from the start!

Here are 3 ways you can help welcome refugees in 2019, starting TODAY, right here in Northwest Arkansas:

  1. Form a co-sponsor team. You can form a team from your workplace, your school, your church—or just a group of your friends. We’ll match you with a refugee family in our pipeline and you’ll join us in preparing for their arrival. Once they’re here, you’ll become their first friends and you’ll mentor them for the first six months in the country as they learn how to navigate their new community, get plugged into resources and find jobs. This is a life-changing, life-giving experience that you do not want to miss! If this sounds like it might be for you, email Lauren Snodgrass at lauren.snodgrass@canopynwa.org to sign up for our next co-sponsor training on February 2.

  2. Mentor a refugee child in our after-school program. The After School Buddies Program needs volunteers for the spring semester! You will be matched with a refugee student and will meet with them one afternoon a week to work on English, learn about US culture, help them with their homework and mentor them. This program is run by Students for Refugees at the University of Arkansas, but you do not need to be a college student to volunteer. Anyone 18 and older is welcome to apply. If you are interested, please email Amanda Fleming at agf001@email.uark.edu for more information.

  3. Join us in advocating for refugees on Capitol Hill! Two years into this work, we can see how much value refugees bring to our community in Northwest Arkansas. We need YOU to help us share those stories with our lawmakers in Washington DC to ensure that refugees are allowed to continue arriving here in the years to come. The future of the refugee resettlement program is in peril: we went from receiving 85,000 refugees in 2016 to 22,000 refugees in 2018.  And meanwhile, the number of refugees in need of new homes is going up—not down. We have jobs for them here, co-sponsors ready to help them integrate and a community of established former refugees to show them the way. All we need is for our lawmakers to keep the door open for them to come here. Help us make that happen by joining us in Washington DC! Find out more about the trip HERE—then join us at one of two information sessions we have coming up January 16 and 17.

2019 is the perfect year for YOU to start playing an active role in welcoming refugees to our wonderful community. Help us change the lives of our refugee families, strengthen our community and grow our impact. We promise you’ll never be the same.

Thank you

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Dear friends,

Thank you.

We are flabbergasted, overwhelmed, and completely and utterly delighted to let you know that together, we obliterated our end-of-year fundraising goal of $15,000. 
Together, we raised nearly $29,000 in the month of December. That's almost a third of our entire annual fundraising goal. In one month.

Thank you.

Together, as a community, we welcomed 71 refugees in 2018. They came to us from El Salvador, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Ukraine and Honduras, fleeing gang violence, civil wars, genocide and political persecution. They brought us Bibles, bachelors’ degrees, babies; new languages, foods and ideas. And you were there for them.

You were there at the airport when they wandered down the hall, their eyes scanning the space for any sign of welcome. You were there at the hospital when their children were sick and scared and nearly dying—and when their children were born, little bundles of American hope. You were there in line at the DMV, in the enrollment center at NWACC, in their living rooms in the early hours of the morning and the late hours at night. Guiding them, learning from them, welcoming them. Loving them.

Thank you.

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Together, as a community we helped 14 families become financially self-sufficient this year. We placed 20 adults in jobs as truck drivers, factory workers, housekeepers and nurses. But they didn’t stop there. We saw get them get GEDs, enroll in college and get their CDL licenses. They traveled to Washington DC to speak with their elected officials and created a nonprofit to meet the needs of other refugees still in camps. Their children made the honor roll, played on the school soccer team and recited the pledge of allegiance in front of the school board.

They brought their work ethic, determination and dreams. You carved out a place for them here.

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Thank you:

For volunteering nearly 700 hours
For driving over 800 miles
For furnishing 17 homes
For raising over $100,000

Thank you:

To our teachers who worked long past quitting time to make sure our children could thrive
To our police who collected Christmas presents and groceries to bring to our families just so they knew they were loved
To our doctors who lovingly nurtured bodies young and old and paid for prescriptions out of their own pockets when our families couldn’t afford them
To our college students who worked tirelessly to build support for refugees on their college campuses and in their communities
To our adult educators and English language instructors who dreamed as big as their students
To all the managers who gave our hard-working, determined refugees a chance
To all the workers at the DHS, DMV and Social Security office who processed the unglamorous paperwork. On time. With grace.
To all the volunteers who got up early, went out of their way, shared a meal, changed a diaper or otherwise sacrificed for the sake of a stranger.

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Thank you. It takes a community to resettle refugees. We’re so glad your ours.

Sincerely,

Canopy