For some refugees, fleeing a homeland blighted by conflict and violence is only half the battle. Once refugees are relocated to the United States, many face employment challenges, language barriers, health issues and difficulty integrating into an entirely new culture. To help refugees overcome these challenges, groups like Denver’s African Community Center (ACC) offer educational resources, housing assistance, health services and job training. At this month’s International Services Lunch & Learn event, April Sugimoto and Lindsay Dean of the ACC will discuss the ways their organization rises to the challenge of meeting the individual resettlement needs of those seeking refuge in the Denver area.
Sugimoto, the ACC’s Outreach Coordinator, emphasized that while some refugees share common basic needs, every refugee’s story is distinct and requires a tailored response. “We like to say, ‘Once you’ve met one refugee, you’ve met one refugee,’” said Sugimoto. “When an individual comes to Denver, we support them with basic needs and benefits, every step that you can imagine you’d need to take if your life was completely uprooted, but [each resettlement approach] is really case-by-case.”
Recognizing the many distinct experiences of refugee life, the ACC coordinates a recurring storytelling event, “Voices of Refugees,” where “community members” (the group’s term for resettled individuals) are invited to tell their stories of displacement and resettlement. The event functions as part of the group’s efforts to promote multicultural exchange between the refugee community and the greater Denver population “I think it’s an amazing opportunity to make that connection between what’s happening globally, what issues are creating refugees, and creating that local level of understanding and interest, understanding who our neighbors actually are,” Sugimoto said.
In conjunction with services offered by the ACC and organizations like it, The Red Cross offers the Restoring Family Links Program for refugees who need help locating and communicating with family members separated in the chaos of conflict. The Red Cross assists about 5,000 families annually with this service.