By Alan Ruiz Terol
A journey ended when Bana, Adnan and their four children arrived in Cincinnati, Ohio. They had fled war in their home country, Syria, and were granted asylum by the U.S. government. Now they faced a new challenge; how to start a new life in a new country?
The Cincinnati Area Returned Volunteers (CARV) have been mentoring the family since mid-September. The foremost priority was to find a job for Adnan, the father. He is a shoemaker and also has sewing skills—and yet, he was willing to do any work that did not require English. Thanks to great networking, CARV was able to find him a position in his chosen field.
“We help them achieve self-sufficiency,” says Susan Robinson, a member of the group. “We know how important it is for people to do things for themselves.”
CARV members have been visiting the family weekly to tutor the children and help the mom with English. They found several Arabic speakers to help with the translation and have taken the family members to multiple doctor appointments. They have also shared outings to the park and enjoyed pumpkin carving for Halloween. Recently, six CARV members and their family and friends invited Bana and Adnan's family for their first Thanksgiving dinner in America.
Catholic Charities of Southwest Ohio is the volunteer agency responsible for refugee resettlement in the area. They provide housing, medical screening, English and employment lessons and case management. CARV members have been helping them for the past year. Eventually, the agency gave CARV a greater responsibility and asked them to mentor a Syrian family. “They were aware that we had a strong RPCV group and that we would be able to work as a team,” Robinson says.
The CARV group serves as an example of how RPCVs can help refugees integrate to American society. According to Robinson, there are many ways people can help refugees. “I would encourage people to meet volags (Voluntary Agencies) working in their area,” she says.
A new NPCA affiliate group, the Peace Corps Community for the Support of Refugees, is working to connect members of our community who are willing to help with local agencies resettling refugees across the nation. Please contact them if you're interested in making a difference.
The names of the Syrian family have been changed in order to protect their privacy.