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Appreciation For Interfaith Refugee Resettlement Volunteers

Published: May 22, 2018

To the Editor:

The Newtown Interfaith Partnership for Refugee Resettlement (IPRR) was formed in 2016 to help refugees establish a new home in the Greater Danbury Area. IPRR includes members of Trinity Episcopal Church, Newtown Congregational Church, Al Hedaya Islamic Center, Baha’i Community, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, and Congregation Adath Israel, as well as other area residents. In addition, we welcome any organizations or community members who wish to provide support, such as donating time and resources.

When the Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services (IRIS) in New Haven is notified that refugees are coming to Connecticut, it contacts one of the refugee resettlement cosponsor groups to determine its availability for the resettlement process. If it accepts, this local group is given only a snapshot of information about the refugees arriving in a matter of weeks — country of origin, language(s) spoken, and family members’ genders and ages. In 2016/2017, IPRR was fortunate enough to resettle its first refugees, a Congolese family consisting of a married couple and four children. They first settled in Danbury and then moved to the Midwest to live with relatives.

In April, IPRR told IRIS it was ready to resettle a Congolese mother and three sons ages 19, 26, and 29, who had been living in a Rwandan refugee camp for over two decades. We had less than two weeks to find and furnish an apartment, purchase initial food items and clothing, and begin establishing connections with support services in Danbury where the family would live.

The race was on: IPRR committee chairs quickly contacted their members to handle the family’s most immediate needs. In less than 14 days, a group needed to meet the family’s plane at JFK, drive them to their new apartment, and even cook a “welcome home” Congolese meal.

It is IRIS’ anticipation that the refugees will pick up sufficient language and understanding of American culture and systems to look for their first employment within several weeks of their arrival. We offer a huge “thank you” to all volunteers who helped with the new family’s arrival, as well as those who will contribute a tremendous amount of time and effort in the weeks and months to come. Much appreciation also goes to Maureen Marini for welcoming this family to the Sandy Hook Diner to gain firsthand experience on American culture. Anyone who wants to join IPRR can find information at iprefugeer.org.

Rick Chamiec-Case, Cynthia Dunn, Rich Stein, IPRR chairpersons
21 Turkey Roost Road, Sandy Hook        May 22, 2018

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