2015-16 corps member, Anna Berger, is spending her Confluence Year with our partner Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) .
Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS) is a non-profit agency whose mission it is to help refugees and immigrants reach and sustain self-sufficiency and achieve successful integration into the central Ohio community. Services provided include resettlement, employment, English language skills, assistance with legal issues pertaining to immigration, early childhood and parenting, older adult needs, interpretation and translation, outreach to Limited English Proficiency (LEP) populations, and wellness coordination and services.
At CRIS, my main responsibilities center around assisting our case managers with pre-arrival preparations for clients. This means that I prepare basic household goods that clients will need when they arrive such as toiletries, clothing, cooking supplies, furniture and beds, ensuring that each family has the items that that family requires to fit its specific needs. I also perform support work for case managers in other capacities as requested of me, which can mean everything from helping to enroll clients’ children in schools to attending airport arrivals. Additionally, as of recently, I am in charge of the organization’s Instagram account. So be sure to give us a follow @CRISOHIO
I started work at CRIS at a particularly interesting time. Everyday on the news were reports about Europe and the migrants who were crowding the borders, hoping to make their way to Germany or other countries in Western Europe. For many in the United States, this introduced the concept of refugees into their general consciousness. Everyone was suddenly very interested in the work that I was doing at CRIS. As there were reports on the news each day with experts arguing the points of increasing the number of migrants that the U.S will accept in the next few years, my job suddenly became a fascinating novelty for many people with whom I talked.
The most frustrating part about all of the press coverage on migrants over the last few months has been negative language surrounding the migrants and the situations in which they have found themselves, much of it on the part of potential presidential candidates. “Why are they leaving their countries? If there’s a war, why don’t they stay and fight? Why should we let them into our country? They just come and use up our public benefits AND they might be terrorists!” are just a few of the things I have heard. I immediately think about the clients with whom I’ve had the opportunity to work over the past three months when I hear such negative things. Once you’ve worked with refugees themselves, such negative statements become increasingly ridiculous. How is it that people can express such condemnation of persons simply trying to find a place in which they can live a life of relative peace without fear of death or persecution? Why deny people the possibility of living a life without constant fear?
The clients with whom I work are simply people who found themselves in impossible situations, through no fault of their own, and who chose to take action and search for a better life for themselves and their families. I am unable to imagine what they have gone through to make it here to the U.S., but I am always in awe when I interact with clients and the positivity which they retain. It’s always such a lesson for me when I’m having a bad day to remind me that the ability to retain a smile in the face of difficulty is one of the most important human qualities.
Meet Anna Berger’s co-worker Breanne. Breanne is the Resettlement Education Specialist at Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). She is responsible for facilitating all aspects of the Cultural Orientation program for newly arrived clients and developing educational opportunities/trainings for refugees and the broader public through relationship building/partnerships such as our Refugee Speakers Bureau. She also works closely with refugee mothers, organizing opportunities for them such as play groups and in-home ESOL tutoring, educating parents about infant sleep safety and helping them to obtain cribs and car seats, and scheduling WIC appointments for mothers who are pregnant and/or have children under the age of 5. Additionally, Breanne serves as a caseworker for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Safe Passages Program, where she evaluates appropriate home placements for undocumented Central American youth.
There are lots of opportunities for members of the community to get involved with Anna Berger at Community Refugee and Immigration Services (CRIS). Some of these opportunities include volunteering in ESL classes at the CRIS office, organizing a donation drive of welcome kit items, volunteering to drive clients to medical appointments, or donating funds to buy necessary household goods for newly arrived families. If you are interested in volunteering or are curious about more opportunities to volunteer, contact Melanie Williams (a past Confluence participant!) at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (614) 987-1642.