Refugee Connections Spokane
Refugee Connections Spokane (RCS) is a new arrival to the Community Building and pleased to join its neighboring justice and community-minded organizations. RCS, as its name implies, serves Spokanites who have arrived here as refugees. These are the 25-30,000 or more courageous and persevering survivors of wars, persecution and human rights abuses in their home countries, who now reside in Spokane.
Arriving from all over the world at the invitation of the U.S. State Department, refugees bring a wealth of experience and skills. They are eager to work hard so that they can support their families and contribute to their new community. Many are multilingual and highly educated. All must start their lives over in the U.S.The challenges of learning a new way of life continue past the first 90 days of U.S. State Department funding. Some of these challenges can only be solved at the community level, which is where Refugee Connections Spokane comes in.
RCS is a non-profit organization that promotes refugee resettlement success and long term health, wellness and well-being. Our projects and programs engage refugees as active contributing members of the Spokane community.
We listen to refugees, service providers, and agencies to learn about long-standing issues which create barriers to refugees’ success. We engage these players in identifying root causes and possible solutions. We partner with others to undertake initiatives to resolve problems.
To provide a means for refugees to use farming skills productively in our city, RCS coordinates the Refugees’ Harvest Project each summer. A Hmong former refugee brought the project concept to RCS in 2011, as a way to say, “Thank you, Spokane” for providing a safe home. Last summer, 62 refugees and former refugees worked very hard harvesting unwanted fruits and vegetables from backyard gardens and small farms. They personally handed out 9,223 pounds of fresh produce to needy families in Spokane’s East Central area.
To help the newcomers to understand an American legal system wholly different from what they have known, RCS presented a workshop in collaboration with Gonzaga Law School faculty and students and the Spokane Community College (CCS) ESL Program. The 140 participants were glad to learn about American laws so they can be law abiding.
Because language is key to developing relationships and access to resources, RCS led a community-wide initiative to address a severe shortage of language interpreters in Spokane. As a result of the collaboration of RCS, CCS ESL Program, doctors, attorneys, interpreters, refugees and World Relief, language interpreters now study online and test for certification locally. The many more interpreters are taking down language barriers for all in Spokane.
These are a few of the ways that RCS has created connections and builds relationships to benefit refugees and their new community of Spokane. Now, as a newcomer to the Community Building, RCS is finding exciting connections with neighbors and community-minded organizations.
By Susan Hales