Celebrating World Refugee Day with Gratitude & Hope

Written by: Emma Driban, JFS Content Developer


June 20 is World Refugee Day—an annual, global celebration of the contributions, courage and resilience of refugees—and JFS’ Refugee Integration Support Effort (RISE) has not been idle during the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the virus brought many things to a halt, the need for refugee resettlement and assistance did not go away, and Jewish Family Services was there to help.

The RISE team has continued to provide intensive case management to its clients. This includes employment services such as professional skills development, employment searches, assistance with documentation and applications, transportation to interviews, and more; financial literacy and planning; life skills training and cultural orientation; English language lessons; health and wellness management; and connections to resources, service referrals, and assistance with benefits and more.

These offerings help clients with their resettlement and aid them in reaching their goals. In the case of one client, RISE assisted in overcoming employment and financial issues. The client persisted through difficult times with support from RISE and enrolled in Delaware Technical Community College, where they maintain high marks despite the challenges of an online learning system. In their pursuit of a pre-medical degree, they have sought out mentorship from a JFS Case Manager, become a Certified Home Health Aid, and got a job as a Direct Support Professional; they also received a driver’s license after several attempts. The client’s perseverance, with some help from RISE, has seen them strive for their goals and accomplish quite a few.

In addition to the case management services, with generosity from community members and partners, the RISE team supported clients through COVID by distributing thirty-two Chromebooks to nineteen households, allowing the families to participate in online worship services, attend telehealth appointments, participate in virtual learning, and communicate with case managers. They also acquired an English learning software to offer an alternative to closed ESL programs that help clients who are continuing to work on their English and applied for emergency response funds to assist clients affected by the COVID crisis with bill payments and other critical expenses.

These emergency funds from partner agencies such as the United Way and HIAS helped clients and families maintain or regain self-sufficiency during these challenging times. One RISE client received this financial aid when a recent job loss and the impending birth of a child sent the family into crisis mode. Their case manager helped them send in benefits applications through the state and connected them to various programs within the community to help prepare for the baby. With RISE’s help through the job search, the client found an employment opportunity and is on their way back to independence and peace of mind.

During the pandemic, RISE also hosted a Mental Health Psychosocial Support Group, which engaged many clients for networking opportunities and cultural support. RISE also created a Virtual Women’s Support Group, in which a small group of clients attended weekly sessions for eight weeks; guest speakers from the financial, educational, and mental health fields came into the group to talk about topics in financial literacy, the American educational system and being the best advocate for your child’s success in school, and other relevant topics relating to the best way to stay connected during COVID. RISE aims to support its clients however it can through the struggles of resettlement.

One client experiencing a hard time adjusting to the United States was also struggling with familial and employment issues. These circumstances took quite a toll and, over the course of several months, JFS was able to help them put the pieces of life back together. The client shares that the support, understanding, and compassion from the JFS staff contributed to their spiritual, emotional, and mental health.

One in eleven Delaware residents is an immigrant, while another one in eleven residents is a native-born U.S. citizen with at least one immigrant parent. Since 2017, JFS has helped resettle fifteen families, a total of fifty-nine individuals. JFS believes we are obligated to love, befriend, and welcome the stranger and to treat all of humanity with kindness and dignity. We deeply understand the human tragedy that occurs when nations and citizens turn a blind eye to those who are fleeing persecution, war, and terror. With just 11,800 individuals arriving in the United States, 2020 saw the fewest refugees since the establishment of the refugee admissions program in 1980; the current administration has recently raised the refugee admissions cap and JFS RISE looks forward to resuming our active resettlement efforts this year.

In partnership with HIAS—one of the nine national resettlement agencies—and the State of Delaware, JFS works diligently to support incoming refugees. The RISE team includes JFS professional staff and JFS RISE volunteers, community partners, and integration leaders. Through intensive, culturally sensitive case management, our staff enables refugees to integrate into their new communities, obtain and retain employment, and maintain healthy lifestyles to achieve self-sufficiency.