The Gift of Empowerment

SEI20180803_0893_lowres.jpg

 When refugees find out they are going to be resettled in America, they start to dream—and they dream big. They know of America as the land of opportunity, where anything is possible anyone can have the chance to make something of themselves. So they dream big.

And to us, that’s what refugee resettlement is all about: Helping refugees build their American dreams.

When Denys found out he and his family were going to be resettled in America, he immediately knew what he wanted to do: he wanted to be a truck driver. He had always had a thing for big machines. In his home country of Ukraine, he worked as a mechanic, repairing trucks, tractors and other large machinery. But it was never enough to provide for his family, especially not once the corrupt local government took their share of his pay. But he had heard that in America, if he could learn to drive big trucks over long distances, he could provide his family with a warm, beautiful home and give his children a future. So that’s what he decided to do.

IMG_0115.jpeg

Canopy’s case manager, Francisco, had barely finished showing Denys and his family around their new house last June before Denys started asking him about truck driving. How could he get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)? And when could he start working? And how much did he think he could earn? After years and years of waiting, Denys was ready to get started. 

IMG_0477.jpg

He sat down with our director of employment, Khalid, and the two drew out a plan. First, Denys would need a regular driver’s license, and he would have to wait a few months for all his documents to come through in order to apply for one. In the mean time, Khalid would help him enroll in English class and study for the test. So that’s what they did. Denys and his wife biked to English class every day and studied the driver’s manual together regularly. By the time Denys had all his documents in place, he knew it front to back and he passed the test on his first try.

One month later, he enrolled in a 4-week CDL training program in Springdale. As soon as he had finished, he took the test and passed that one on his first try too. Within days, Khalid started getting pictures from Nebraska, Illinois and California as Denys drove his truck all across the US.

Denys’ American dream is coming true.

Together with our co-sponsors, employers and educators, Canopy has helped 19 other adults take steps toward their American Dreams in 2018. We’ve helped a young woman to become a Certified Nursing Assistant on her way to becoming a nurse. We’ve helped a single mother sign up for an online computer programming class so that she could eventually get a job in the technical support field. And we’ve helped our very first client enroll in college.

This coming year, help us to continue to bring our families’ American Dreams to fruition—and help us launch the dreams of those who have yet to come.

With $150, you can cover the cost of 3 weeks of job training for a refugee when they first arrive. We’re looking for 19 friends to contribute this amount this week— one contributor for every adult we’ve place in a job this year.

Give the gift of empowerment this season.

35298059_831299880394741_4477158082119467008_n.jpg
36189321_841683062689756_5729544041389883392_n.jpg

 

The Gift of Childhood

SEI20180803_0367_lowres.jpg

Maya (not her real name) had been here less than two weeks when she had to be rushed to the children’s hospital in Little Rock in the middle of the night. She was suffering from an intense attack of sickle cell anemia. Her misshapen red blood cells were stuck in her blood vessels and all across her body, her muscles were being deprived of oxygen. She was in intense pain and couldn’t breathe. At the hospital, the doctors gave her medication and made an appointment for her to see a specialist in two months.

Two weeks later, Maya was back at the emergency room. This time, she was admitted to the newly-opened Northwest Arkansas Children’s Hospital where she was able to see a pediatric hematologist the very next day. When he first laid eyes on her, he tearfully told Canopy staff that she likely would not have survived this attack in the refugee camp, but here in Northwest Arkansas, he could give her a new chance at life. He immediately took charge of her case: he ordered her an emergency blood transfusion and set her up on a holistic treatment plan. He turned things around for her. Now, Maya is thriving. She is responding well to treatment, doing well in school and can go back to just being a kid.

SEI20180803_0498_lowres.jpg
SEI20180803_0792_lowres.jpg
SEI20180803_0532_lowres.jpg

This past year, Canopy was able to welcome and care for 34 other children just like Maya. Some of them were born and had lived their whole lives in refugee camps. Some were orphaned, having lost both their parents to war. Some had just narrowly escaped a life of gang violence and were joining parents they hadn't seen since they were toddlers. 

With your help, each and every one of these children was able to receive individual attention and care from a Canopy case manager: he let them pinch his hands while they got their shots, he met with their teachers to help craft customized learning plans, he helped them get set up with counselors so that they could start to heal from the trauma they had encountered.

We were also able to enroll 23 of these school-aged children in our After-School Buddies Program, thanks to an incredible partnership with Students for Refugees at the University of Arkansas. Through this program, the children meet once a week to work on their homework, practice their English, learn about American culture and meet one-on-one with a mentor. This semester, they’ve even been able to do a little bit of art therapy thanks to our friends at Art for the Heart.  

Thanks to his careful attention and the hard work of all the volunteers, tutors, teachers, doctors and therapists who have poured into these kids, they are all slowly seeing their childhoods restored. 

This coming year, we are expecting and waiting for 26 more children just like Maya-- and perhaps others we don't even know about yet. During this season of giving, we ask you to give the children who are here and the many children to come the gift of an education and a restored childhood. 

Help Abwe send some love (and books) to refugees in Tanzania!

SEI20180803_0457_lowres.jpg

Abwe thought he was prepared to come to the US. He had trained as a nurse for the Red Cross and had experience working in microfinance and church ministry as well. He was smart, educated and adaptable. He felt ready for America and its challenges. But when he arrived, he discovered there was one key area where he was not prepared: language. For all his work experience and education, Abwe did not speak hardly any English. The cultural differences were also far bigger than he had expected. There was so much to learn and he felt so far behind.

That was when Abwe decided: as soon as he and his family were a bit more settled in the US, they would work to start a community center in the camp they had just left—Nyarugusu in Tanzania.

This community center would have a library with English books for all reading levels and a computer lab where refugees could access online English language programs to help them prepare for their journey to the US. His former church in the camp could spearhead the project and even recruit volunteer English tutors to help. All they needed was a little bit of funding to get started with construction and that’s where YOU come in.

Help Abwe and his former neighbors in Nyarugusu build their community center this holiday season in three ways:

              1) Bring English books for all ages and reading levels to the Canopy office anytime Monday-Thursday 9 am- 4pm so that Abwe can ship them to Nyarugusu. The books will go in the same container as the clothes, toys and feminine hygiene products that Majidi and Rehema are collecting.

              2) Consider donating to help cover the shipping cost and the cost of construction materials for the community center. The container will cost over $6,000 and the construction materials will cost $3,600. Abwe has already done a terrific job fundraising on his own and has gotten off to a great start, but this is going to take our entire community. Please consider giving what you can!

              3) Share this post! This is a big dream and it’s going to take our whole community to make it happen. Help us get everyone involved.

Help Majidi and Rehema send some love (and clothes) to refugees in Tanzania

24837301_734775973380466_1837460774722823577_o (2).jpg

Majidi can clearly still remember when he first arrived in the refugee camp in Namibia after a grueling journey from the Congo. He had nothing with him but the clothes on his back and they were filthy and worn after the journey, but for his first several weeks in the camp, he had to make do with them.

Then a miracle happened: a container arrived in his camp from America, filled with clothes.

Majidi was invited to take what he needed. The new clothes made him feel like a human again. That simple act of kindness from strangers in America touched Majidi deeply. He knew then that if he ever got the chance to go to America, he wanted to repay the favor.

SO. This holiday season, he and his wife Rehema are working to fill a 40-foot container with clothes, feminine hygiene items and BOOKS to send to those in need in the camp and they need YOUR help.

Here are three things you can do this holiday season:

              1) Bring your gently used clothes and toys and (new) feminine hygiene products to the Canopy office anytime Monday-Thursday 9 am- 4pm so that Majidi and Rehema can send them to Nyarugusu.

              2) Consider donating to help cover the shipping costs. It’s going to cost $6,400 to ship that container from Fayetteville to Tanzania and Majidi and Rehema can’t do it alone! This fundraiser will help get them part of the way there at least.

              3) Share this post! This is a big dream and it’s going to take our whole community to make it happen. Help us get everyone involved.

Asylum: A few important facts

Asylum.jpg

Asylum seekers have been in the news quite a lot recently, as several migrant caravans make their way through central America towards Mexico and the US. We’ve heard a lot of disturbing things about these groups: that they’re trying to invade our country, that they’re dangerous and diseased, that they don’t care about our laws. We’ve heard a lot of people say— including Senator Cotton just last week— that asylum seekers should be welcome in America, but that they need to seek asylum “the right way.” If you feel that way then, well… you’d be right. We feel that way too. But here’s the thing: that’s exactly what these migrant caravans are doing. They’re on their way to apply for asylum in the US “the right way”— the only way, actually.

Here are a few facts everyone should know about asylum and these migrant caravans:

1) The only way to request asylum in a country is to physically get to that country and make your request. In person. On that country’s soil. That’s it. There is no application for asylum that someone can mail in from Honduras. Which makes sense, if you think about it. Asylum seekers are people who are in imminent danger. If someone had the time to fill out an application and wait for a few years for it to be processed before leaving their country, you might start to doubt whether they were really in that much danger to begin with. So that’s it. That’s all there is to it. If you are in danger in Honduras or El Salvador and you want the opportunity to find safety in the United States, the right way (and the only way) to do that is to make your way to the United States by whatever means possible and make your asylum request.

2) In order to qualify for asylum, you have to prove that your life is in danger because of your identity in some way. You have to prove that you are being persecuted because of your race, religion, political opinion, national origin or membership of a particular social group. Once you’re in the US, you will fill out an application with the US Citizenship and Immigration Service detailing exactly why you are afraid for your life. Then, typically, you’ll have to wait a year or two for an interview and a series of security checks before having your petition approved or denied. It’s very, very hard to prove that you are worthy of asylum. The bar is pretty high and only those with truly valid persecution claims will be selected. But of all the countries in the world, Honduras and El Salvador are pretty logical places for people to be fleeing, considering they have the two highest murder rates in the world.

3) Getting to the United States is dangerous in and of itself, so it makes sense that people would travel in groups. You have to cover hundreds of miles, mostly on foot, many of them through desert. You’re at constant risk of attack from smugglers and thieves. You could easily get lost and run out of food or water. That’s not the sort of journey anyone would want to undertake on their own, which is why people form caravans. They’re not trying to make an intimidating force— they’re just trying to stay safe as they make their way to our country “the right way.”

And here’s another important fact you might not have known. Current US law states that it doesn’t matter how you get to our country— you have the right to request asylum. Whether you cross at a formal port of entry historically has not had any bearing on your asylum petition. Which again, if you think about it, makes sense. An asylum claim is supposed to be about whether or not your life is really in danger— not about how well you understand US immigration and border laws. However, this past week, President Trump signed a proclamation attempting to change this law, stating that from now on, people who do not cross the border at official ports of entry can no longer request asylum.

Canopy NWA is deeply concerned by this move for a few main reasons. First, it starts to put qualifications on asylum petitions that have nothing to do with persecution. Asylum is supposed to be about what you fled you from— not how you got here. Crossing the border without inspection is a misdemeanor offense and people who do so are and should be prosecuted for it. But that should not be reason enough on its own to send them back to the danger they just fled, especially when you consider that many of those seeking asylum are unaccompanied children who don’t know any better.

Second, it puts asylum seekers in unnecessary danger by keeping them in the border region for months. Currently, there isn’t enough manpower at official border crossings to process the volume of people needing to seek asylum, and despite this new proclamation, it doesn’t appear the DOJ or DHS have plans to increase the number of officials at these ports of entry anytime soon. That means that those who do know to cross at an official border crossing and try to do so could face months and months of camping at the border as they await their turn in line. That opens people up to all kinds of unnecessary vulnerabilities.

We strongly encourage our elected leaders to push back against this new rule and make sure that those whose lives are in peril are given the chance to seek safe haven in our country.

Welcoming Refugees Home: Two Years In

SEI20180803_0656_lowres.jpg

Sunday, September 30 marked the end of FY 2018, Canopy’s second full fiscal year in operation.

It’s amazing to think that we are already two years into this work! But it’s even more amazing to think about just how much we have managed to accomplish together over these last two years.

Over the last two years, we have resettled 112 refugees from 7 countries through our reception and placement program. That’s 56 families who have received housing, government assistance, access to healthcare and food here in Northwest Arkansas. That’s 57 children who have been enrolled in school and daycare. And that’s 55 adults who have gotten the chance to study English completely free of charge and who have received 400 hours of cultural orientation between them.

Through our employment program, we have taught approximately 1,200 hours of job training to newly arrived refugees and have helped 39 refugee adults find jobs. As a result, all 56 of our households have been financially self-sufficient within the first few months after arriving in the United States.

Over the past year, we launched a suite of integration programs designed to help our families continue to adjust to life in the US after their initial resettlement period is over:

SEI20180803_0498_lowres.jpg

After School Buddy Program: 23 refugee children have been paired with one-on-one mentors from the University of Arkansas who meet with them once a week to work on academic tutoring, cultural orientation and relationship building. This academic year, we have even worked in an art therapy element in partnership with the wonderful folks at Art Feeds. We have seen truly wonderful results from this program. Our kids are not only doing well academically, they are becoming leaders and examples in their schools.

38869509_10217511841567651_6826497792802816000_o.jpg

Community Gardening Program: Thanks to a group of passionate volunteers, we were able to pilot a community garden in one of our apartment complexes this year. The garden brought our refugee families and their neighbors together to grow their own food and build relationships with each other.

SEI20180803_0412_lowres.jpg

Immigration Legal Services: Since January, we have been working to build up the capacity to offer immigration legal services to our refugee clients. Our director and case manager have both undergone extensive training and we have collected all the necessary documents in order to apply for accreditation from the Department of Justice as a nonprofit legal service provider. Once we are approved, we will be able to help our clients apply for green cards, family reunification, and one day, citizenship— all important steps in their integration.

SEI20180803_0677_lowres.jpg

Ongoing Cultural Orientation: Since September, we have begun offering monthly workshops on cultural orientation topics that are challenging for our clients and other newcomers. In these workshops, we teach attendees how to navigate important systems (public transportation, healthcare, etc.) and how to access key resources (public assistance, city government services, public education, etc.). These workshops are open to any newcomers in our community and are made possible thanks to a grant from Tyson Foods and the Northwest Arkansas Council.

But really, all of this rests on our Community Outreach Program. None of this would have happened without the partnerships we have been able to form with 350 volunteers, 10 employers, 12 faith communities and over 20 service providers. If you have sacrificed some of your precious free time to drive our clients to appointments, or given generously to support our work financially, or chosen to rent to one of our families or employ one of our clients, then we really can’t begin to thank you enough. YOU all have made this possible.

We are humbled and grateful to announce that thanks to your incredible generosity over the past year, we surpassed our fundraising goal for the year, raising nearly $160,000 in FY 2018. With all of the uncertainty that we have seen in the US refugee resettlement program, it would be expected for a small organization like ours to really struggle. But thanks to you all and your passion for this work, we are able to continue in our mission, undisturbed by the tides of politics. And we can’t begin to thank you enough for that.

Thank you for two incredible years of welcoming refugees home. The best is yet to come.

39887059_904210993103629_4981858538021191680_n.jpg