Digging Into Cultural Acculturation at HIAS—National Refugee Resettlement Conference

Posted by Jessica Palumbo on Fri, May 10, 2013 at 10:57 am

Day Two of HIAS’ National Refugee Resettlement Conference: resettlement professionals from around the country gathered for a series of in-depth sessions on facilitating acculturation and true liberty for newcomers in America.

What are some of the technical aspects of aiding refugees through their first weeks in a new country? Big topics of the day: cultural orientation, protection gaps facing minorities in regard to gender identity or sexual orientation, and medical and mental health case management on the eve of the Affordable Care Act implementation.

Practitioners brainstormed ideas on what an ideal cultural orientation program would look like, including: taking care not to overwhelm the client, facilitating orientation and materials in their native language or with an interpreter, covering all the “basics” like safety and transportation, and incorporating visual aids and field trips into the training to reinforce learning.

With so many refugees arriving in the U.S. from areas of conflict, participants engaged in lively sessions on a trauma-informed approach to meeting their emotional needs. Hawthorne Smith, Ph.D., Clinical Director at the Bellevue/NYU Program for Survivors of Torture, analyzed the marginalization felt by new arrivals and the importance of facilitating emotional safety and mitigating the psychological impact of their past on their arrival experience. He stressed the importance of emotional empowerment and setting realistic but hopeful goals with a mantra of, “Nothing is easy, but everything is possible.”

Today, Day Three begins with a look at real world strategies for addressing challenging resettlement cases, including an opportunity for attendees to experiment with the technical skills gathered the day before. The conference wraps up with the Matching Grant Training Institute, a series of special training sessions designed for resettlement sites that implement a specialized program geared toward refugees attaining self-sufficiency early.

Up next: nearly 3,500 refugees from over 21 nations moved through 31 sites nationwide by hundreds of staff and volunteers over the 12 months of Fiscal Year 2014.

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