The Desert Leaf January 2013 : Page 62

Heart of the Matter International Rescue Committee in Tucson by Claire Rogers From Harm to Home: The IRC in Tucson’s New Roots program is partnering with the Community Gardens of Tucson to provide community gardening opportunities for refugee families. A SUNDAY MARCH ARCH 17, 2013 UA MALL TUCSON, ARIZONA SAME RACE, NEW PLACE JOIN OUR RACE TO END BREAST CANCER LOCAL PRESENTING SPONSORS MEDIA PRESENTING SPONSORS GOLD SPONSORS s confl icts fl are in struggling na-tions, traces of humanity stagger from the smoke and violence, across borders to the safe havens of refugee camps. From a distance, they watch their previous lives disintegrate, and they wait. For Daniel Tewolde, a 30-year-old Eritrean, the waiting in an Ethio-pian refugee camp lasted six years and two months. “That’s a long time,” acknowledges Tewolde. He now works as a caregiver at Desert Horizons Communities and was named Employee of the Month last October. He’s been in Tucson nine months. His enthusiasm for his new life here bubbles over after his previous six years’ constraint. “It’s real, real, real nice,” Tewolde says of his work caring for the devel-opmentally disabled. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helped Tewol-de immigrate to the U.S., and the IRC in Tucson helped him get housing, educa-tion and a job. The IRC in Tucson is one chap-ter of 22 offi ces worldwide. Operating here since 1997, the local offi ce became self-suffi cient in 2007. The networked IRC chapters operate in more than 50 countries, helping refugees, survivors of torture and victims of sexual assault to restart their lives. According to Jeff rey Cornish, ex-ecutive director of IRC in Tucson, what makes the aid agency unique among Tucson’s many nonprofi ts is the wide network of experienced professionals and the fi nancial resources of a larger organization. Particularly relevant in Tucson, adds Cornish, is the Center for Well Being, where counselors help heal the physical and emotional wounds of assault and torture. “We off er one-on-one counseling to help refugees recover and resettle,” says Cornish. “We also provide inten-sive employment support to get them independent as quickly as possible,.” In Tewolde’s case, English as a Second Language and Vocational English class-es prepared him for duties specifi c to a caregiver. “The refugees who make it here have lost everything: their posses-sions, their families, their professions and even their status within a commu-nity,” Cornish says. He points out that normal federal funding supports only one month of integration assistance, though sometimes this can be extend-ed to three or even six months, depend-ing on the refugee and the need. The IRC in Tucson off ers a diversity of programs to help refugees assimilate into American culture. Services such as housing; fi nancial assistance; health care; English-language classes; voca-tional, computer and fi nancial skills training; support for children’s educa-tion; social and legal services, and com-62 DesertLeaf l January 2013 Aaron Grigg/IRC

Heart Of The Matter

Claire Rogers

From Harm to Home: International Rescue Committee in Tucson<br /> <br /> As conflicts flare in struggling nations, traces of humanity stagger from the smoke and violence, across borders to the safe havens of refugee camps. From a distance, they watch their previous lives disintegrate, and they wait.<br /> <br /> For Daniel Tewolde, a 30-yearold Eritrean, the waiting in an Ethiopian refugee camp lasted six years and two months.<br /> <br /> "That's a long time," acknowledges Tewolde. He now works as a caregiver at Desert Horizons Communities and was named Employee of the Monthlast October. He's been in Tucson nine months. His enthusiasm for his new life here bubbles over after his previous six years' constraint.<br /> <br /> "It's real, real, real nice," Tewolde says of his work caring for the developmentally disabled. The International Rescue Committee (IRC) helped Tewolde immigrate to the U.S., and the IRC in Tucson helped him get housing, education and a job.<br /> <br /> The IRC in Tucson is one chapter of 22 offices worldwide. Operating here since 1997, the local office became self-sufficient in 2007. The networked IRC chapters operate in more than 50 countries, helping refugees, survivors of torture and victims of sexual assault to restart their lives.<br /> <br /> According to Jeff rey Cornish, executive director of IRC in Tucson, what makes the aid agency unique among Tucson's many nonprofits is the wide network of experienced professionals and the financial resources of a larger organization. Particularly relevant in Tucson, adds Cornish, is the Center for Well Being, where counselors help heal the physical and emotional wounds of assault and torture.<br /> <br /> "We off er one-on-one counseling to help refugees recover and resettle," says Cornish. "We also provide intensive employment support to get them independent as quickly as possible,." In Tewolde's case, English as a Second Language and Vocational English classes prepared him for duties specific to a caregiver.<br /> <br /> "The refugees who make it here have lost everything: their possessions, their families, their professions and even their status within a community," Cornish says. He points out that normal federal funding supports only one monthof integration assistance, though sometimes this can be extended to three or even six months, depending on the refugee and the need.<br /> <br /> The IRC in Tucson offers a diversity of programs to help refugees assimilate into American culture. Services such as housing; financial assistance; healthcare; English-language classes; vocational, computer and financial skills training; support for children's education; social and legal services, and comMunity support all help individuals starting from scratch. An especially important offering of the IRC in Tucson is vocational English-language classes, which teach vocabularies specific to entry-level jobs.<br /> <br /> "Our biggest challenge is trying to get everyone who falls under our umbrella of care, self-sufficient and independent within a six-month period," says Cornish. He points out that each Tucson nonprofit has a different funding source and different mission, so they network well with each other to provide comprehensive services.<br /> <br /> "We depend on being able to refer to other agencies such as Lutheran Social Services and Catholic Services," explains Cornish. He notes that Tucson Community Gardens, for example, is a tremendous help in giving refugees additional economic support through supplemental income and a source of locally grown food. Refugees are often able to share their dry-land farming skills, which are compatible with Tucson's growing climate.<br /> <br /> Cornish recommends that Tucsonans can be most helpful to incoming refugees through an understanding of the difficulties that refugee immigrants face: language challenges, cultural differences and feelings of being overwhelmed.<br /> <br /> "We try to teach our clients about cultural differences here-matters like adherence to a work schedule, the importance we place on a fast-paced, sometimes competitive work environment, computer and language skills, Even idioms: like 'heads up.' What does that mean to a foreigner unfamiliar with our language?" He asks.<br /> <br /> In the fall 2012 screening of the PBS documentary Half the Sky, an IRC client speaks out about violence against women in Sierra Leone, Africa. (The IRC provides counseling, medical care and legal referrals to victims of sexual assault.)<br /> <br /> Last April, the Women's Foundation of Southern Arizona awarded the IRC in Tucson a $20,000 grant to support women's employment training, mental health and well-being programs.<br /> <br /> The IRC in Tucson is also becoming more involved withpromoting International Women's Day. The occasion isn't widely celebrated in the U.S., but is commemorated in many other countries, and many refugees are familiar with the observance. On that day this year, March 8, the IRC in Tucson will be hosting open-house events to encourage Tucson residents to get to know the work of the organization, as well as the clients it serves.<br /> <br /> The IRC's online efficiency report indicates that three percent of revenue goes to fundraising, four percent pays for administration, and 93 percent is used for programs. According to the website, the IRC meets all accountability standards of the Better Business Bureau's wise giving alliance. Visit www.rescue.org/tucson for more information.<br /> <br /> Claire Rogers is a local freelance writer. Comments for publication should be addressed to letters@desertleaf.com.

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