Welcoming Refugees Home: Two Years In

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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