Happy New Year, Northwest Arkansas!
We hope you all go the chance to take a break sometime in the last two weeks and spend some time with your families. 2017 was a big year for our community! It was full of challenges to our young refugee resettlement program: three separate refugee travel bans, cuts in federal funding, discouraging words from our elected officials about refugees and immigrants... But despite all that, we made some incredible things happen. Let's do a quick recap, shall we?
-We welcomed 55 refugees from 5 countries into our community
-Students For Refugees hosted an incredible Mock Refugee Camp interactive exhibit, drawing huge crowds and attracting the attention of multiple national news organizations
-Brightwater helped us throw our first ever Refugee Benefit Dinner-- and it was just as delicious and memorable as it sounds
-We helped all our refugee adults find jobs-- and even some job upgrades! We now have refugees making an impact as teachers, mechanics, translators and cooks (and lots of other jobs too).
AND to make it all that much sweeter, we closed out 2017 with an incredible end-of-year giving push:
We blew past our fundraising goal of $15,000 to close out the year with $19,000 in gifts, big and small. We definitely felt the love and our refugee families felt it too. To all of you who gave, we cannot thank you enough.
Now it's time to look ahead. We don't know what challenges lie ahead of us this year. We continue to get worrisome signals from our President and other elected officials that they do not support our work-- and we're not sure what that means for us. But whatever happens in Washington, here in Northwest Arkansas, we aren't slowing down! We've got a lot coming in 2018: new programs, new families and new ways for you, our community to get involved in this life-changing work.
New Programs: We just completed a survey of all of our refugee families to learn where they continue to need assistance and support 6+ months after they arrive. As you all know, we currently only provide direct services to our refugee families throughout our 90-day initial Reception and Placement program-- but we know they still need our support after those three months are over. In our first year, that support has been ad-hoc-- we respond to their needs as they come up-- but in 2018, thanks to the helpful data we gathered from this survey, we are going to roll out several new structured programs that our families can access to help them along their long-term journey toward self-sufficiency and integration. We'll keep you posted on these programs as we roll them out, but for now, we can tell you that they will focus on three key areas:
- Ongoing Language and Cultural Training
- Legal Assistance
- Mental Wellness
New Families: We are waiting for 75 refugees to arrive in Northwest Arkansas in 2018. We know already 40 of them by name-- some of them, we've been waiting for for over a year. They come from all over the world and have fascinating stories: some have advanced degrees, some are young orphans, some just had babies, some just lost husbands. We watch their stories from a distance and we wonder: do they know how much we love them already? Do they have any idea how eager their community is for them to get here?
New Volunteer Opportunities: As we roll out our new refugee programs, we're going to need new volunteers, so if you haven't yet, go to our Volunteer Page and create a profile for yourself so that as soon as new opportunities become available, you can sign up for them!