Refugee Transitions

Some of you know that I’m currently working on a novel set in Mogadishu, Somalia. Trying to connect with the Somali immigrant community here in the U.S. has been harder than I expected. Understandably, due to privacy concerns, Somali immigrants and the organizations that service them are careful, protecting people who are vulnerable. Furthermore, the media spotlight on the Somali immigrants who have secretly left the U.S. to fight for radical Islamist army al-Shabaab (which has ties to al-Qaeda) may have contributed to the unease related to writers who have an interest in Somalis.

Thankfully, there have been two organizations that have leapt up with waving hands and said, “I’ll help! I’ll help!” One of those organizations is the Somali-run Somali Youth League of San Diego. They were great–and continue to be great! I’m planning another trip to San Diego to meet with Somali families there, perhaps in December.

The other organization that leapt up to help is based here in the Bay Area: Refugee Transitions. Because Refugee Transitions was so kind with their offer to help, I sat up and paid some attention to what they’re doing and why. I like to promote organizations doing good in the world. And Refugee Transitions is right up my alley. Instead of perpetuating dependence (all too often a problem with non-profit organizations), Refugee Transitions offers resources that help refugee families become self-sufficient in the U.S. So they focus efforts by offering classes in the English language, ways for immigrants to learn job skills, support for academics. and imparting critical cultural knowledge about life in the U.S.  They provide tutoring, ESL classes, citizenship classes, summer camps for kids, and support for families–connecting them to community resources while preparing them to do it on their own.

Having spent a number of years in my life working full-time and/or volunteering in both religious and non-profit charitable organizations, let me tell you that the goal of self-sufficiency is the gold standard, a goal I completely support.

Refugee Transitions serves more than a thousand people from 43 different countries, all of this with a limited staff and a backbone of volunteers. Understandably, they are always in need of volunteers. One of their biggest needs right now is home-based and after-school tutors. They provide tutoring in Oakland, San Francisco, and the South Bay, so its likely you can help out without traveling too far.

So I want to appeal to my fellow Stanford alums and other Bay Area friends who might be willing to sacrifice a few hours a month, or one afternoon a week, to tutor. If you can’t do it, but know somebody who can, please spread the word! Click here to find out more.


Comment One

  1. Leo Perry

    This month features the Organization for Refugee and Immigrant Success (ORIS) located in Manchester, New Hampshire. In September, ORIS was officially renamed from the Somali Bantu Community Association of New Hampshire. Based upon an interview with the organization’s director, Mukhtar Idhow, this spotlight discusses this change and ORIS’ efforts to broaden the scope of refugee communities served by its mission and programs.

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