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Jul 1, 2020

Supporting New Americans Through a Pandemic

Imagine coming to the United States after years of being a refugee. As you're struggling to integrate into your new home and rebuild your life, a pandemic breaks out that transforms the routines of your new country.

Can you imagine the fear and confusion if you didn’t understand the language and culture? 

Overcomers Refugee Services helps resettled refugees in the Concord area.  Our staff and many of our board members were refugees themselves.  Being multilingual and coming from the same cultures, we deliver information and support by people they can trust in a way they can understand.  We rely on a host of dedicated volunteers to help us in our mission.

COVID-19 has changed the services that we provide, and how we provide them, but our commitment to helping New Americans remains unwavering.

In March, Overcomers’ leadership created a comprehensive COVID-19 response plan and assembled a Crisis Response Team. The Crisis Response Team, consisting of staff, board members and volunteers, has been working hard to ensure that our New American community members stay healthy and safe, and are able to navigate the many confusing aspects of the coronavirus crisis. We also hired three translators – all former refugees – to act as liaisons between clients and volunteers throughout the crisis.

During this crisis, Overcomers has been:

  • Translating and distributing COVID information and updates.
  • Educating about social distancing and encouraging compliance.
  • Getting masks, food packages and food coupons to those in need.
  • Helping with the IRS website so people get the right financial stimulus payment.
  • Supporting parents with homebound school children.
  • Arranging for safe transportation to and interpretation during medical visits.
  • Filing and updating unemployment applications.
  • Advising clients on how to protect themselves and others as businesses reopen and clients go back to work.

Our goal, as always, is to educate and empower our clients with the knowledge and resources they need to be able to function on their own. Many clients were able to help themselves once given some guidance, but many others still have limited English proficiency and we didn’t want to take any chances with people’s health, so we provided more hands-on support than usual for those who needed it.

We will be continuing with this important work for as long as necessary, but now that things are calming down, we are looking ahead.

We don’t know what life post-COVID will look like, but we do know that we need to shift our focus back to educating, empowering and engaging our clients.

In the new normal of social distancing, so much of life has moved on-line. Working with our clients during this crisis has convinced us that computer literacy is an essential and necessary skill. This is a skill that many new Americans do not have. 

Children of New Americans are falling behind in their education. Children are being schooled remotely and their parents aren’t able to help because they don’t know how to use the computer.  From remote learning to school and sports registrations, employment applications to essential financial transactions: It’s all happening on-line. 

So, we will be launching a new Computer Literacy Program which will focus on empowering New Americans to be able to do their banking online, read and send emails, apply for jobs, and help their children succeed in school. 

Your support from our December 2019 campaign gave us the momentum to be able to respond quickly in a variety of ways when the COVID-19 crisis hit. As we continue our work, we remain deeply grateful for your support. We could not do this work without you!

Thank you for helping us empower New Americans in New Hampshire, especially through the COVID-19 crisis. We are all in this together, and together we will overcome.

 

Sincerely,

 

Clement Kigugu

Executive Director

 

Links:

Mar 2, 2020

Empowering New Americans to Thrive

Employment Counseling
Employment Counseling

People who have been refugees are smart, resilient, and capable, but certain cultural challenges, especially not being able to speak English, hinder their ability to successfully navigate the tasks of everyday life. Overcomers’ case managers speak multiple languages and also came to the U.S. as refugees. The shared experiences and cultural understanding between our staff and new American clients creates a sense of trust and security. Our clients know they have a safe place to go for support with anything from reading their mail to applying for a job.

We would not be able to do this work without the generosity of people like you.

Here are a few examples of how your 2019 contribution has made a difference:

We have expanded our services to include refugees from all backgrounds, not just Africa. This allows us to serve the large Bhutanese population in the greater Concord area, which was previously underserved.

We have been working with a caseload of about 50 families since the beginning of the year, providing services and support such as transportation, interpretation, employment counseling, citizenship processes, mental health support, and even negotiating a car insurance issue for a client whose car was totaled in an accident (that wasn’t his fault), preventing him from getting to and from work.

Common tasks like getting to appointments can be daunting for new Americans who maybe don’t have their driver's license and aren’t accustomed to the processes that are involved in healthcare appointments. Things that many of us take for granted.

Our case managers and volunteers coordinated efforts to provide transportation and interpretation for 15 different clients to their various appointments. Not only were the clients able to get to their appointments, they were able to focus on the appointment without stress or worry.

We helped 8 families to secure housing. The benefits of this should go without saying; everybody deserves a safe place to call home.

Securing gainful employment is important for new Americans, not only for the paycheck, but for the dignity that financial security and independence provides.

We provided employment counseling to 8 people, including the employment application process. Of those 8 people, 3 of them have secured employment and 3 of them have completed the interview process and are awaiting next steps. The other 2 are waiting to be called for an interview, but we are hopeful!

Two people from our citizenship class have passed their test and are now officially U.S. citizens. We also assisted 24 new Americans with their citizenship paperwork.

Our staff and volunteers are working on revamping our youth and women’s programming, which will resume in the spring, to ensure the most effective outcomes. We are also working on an exciting youth music program for the fall of 2020.

Clement, our Executive Director continues to do outreach and presentations for various groups to connect more people with our mission, and share the important stories of refugees. Like we said above, people who have been refugees are strong, smart, resilient, and capable. They have endured hardships that many of us can’t imagine, yet they also possess valuable skills, knowledge, and values that enrich our community, economy, and our lives.

Overcomers is committed to supporting newly resettled refugees with compassion and dignity, and to making the process of integration as short and as effective as possible. The generosity of people like you makes it possible for us to do that work.

Your contribution is a message of welcoming to refugees as they become Americans and build their new lives here with us.

Providing assistance
Providing assistance
Assisting with paperwork
Assisting with paperwork
Happy Family
Happy Family
Bhutanese Support
Bhutanese Support

Links:

 
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