Parent/tot class instructor and Women's Initiative supporter, Tenley Harrison with students' tots

Parent/tot class instructor and Women's Initiative supporter, Tenley Harrison with students' tots

The Women's Initiative, a new, fast-growing program created by Refugee Transitions, builds on the successes of our current programming for refugee women with small children. 

The Women's Initiative is based on Refugee Transitions' innovative parent/tot class, which focuses on education for both mothers and their preschool-aged children. The class, which has been running for three years, improves women's English skills and self-sufficiency, supports female community and leadership, and reduces childcare barriers to education. While mothers attend class, early childhood development professionals engage the children in educational activities, including holding reading groups with our partner Tandem. Partners in Early Learning. The class includes multilingual, culturally sensitive assistance by female community leaders. These leaders, as well as the childcare assistants, are hired from within the communities that we serve, which include forcibly displaced populations from Afghanistan, Syria, and Yemen. 

The vast majority of the students make significant gains in their English skills, with some improving well above the state average according to mid-year testing. In addition, student surveys show that the parent/tot program helps women feel more confident using English and navigating systems in the U.S. Also, after participating in the program, women report a higher likelihood of using English to help other newcomers.

One of this program's success stories is Mezhgan. After attending our classes, she advanced her skills and was hired as a Women’s Initiative Classroom Assistant. According to Mezhgan, students participating in the program “have made a community; they can share and solve their problems, they can share their culture with people from many countries. And the program this year is even better than before, because there is a separate childcare room and professional teachers for the children.”

Refugee Transitions is currently raising funds to expand the class into a new space, to more than double the hours of class time per week, and to implement a new preschool curriculum. Please support the Women's Initiative by donating here. We are grateful to Galorah Keshavarz (RT Board Member), Nancy Reyes Mullins, and Nealan Afsari for supporting this program through the "Refugee Voices" fundraiser on World Refugee Day 2017. 

Posted
AuthorAndrew Bogrand
 

Refugee Transitions (RT) is proud to announce that its Development and Program Associate, Jyoti Gurung, has received a 2017 Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Award for Youth Leadership. The Heritage Awards which kick off the APA Heritage Month, recognize exemplary youth leaders who have made a distinct impact in the community and serve as inspirational models for youth.

The award was presented to Jyoti at the APA Heritage Award Ceremony held at the San Francisco War Memorial on May 1. Her award was announced at the APA Heritage Month Press Conference on April 26. 

 

L-R: Co-Chair of the APA Heritage Awards Committee Mary Nicely; APA Heritage Foundation President Claudine Cheng; San Francisco Mayor Edwin M. Lee; Jyoti Gurung; RT Board Member Ko Ko Lay. Photo credit: Frank Jang

Jyoti, 24 was born in a small village in Bhutan. As an infant, her family was forced to flee the country when the government of Bhutan began its ethnic-cleansing strategy to purge individuals of Nepali descent. She grew up in a Bhutanese refugee camp in Nepal, eventually securing permission to enter the U.S. as a refugee with her family in 2009. The family's journey as refugees was fraught with fear, uncertainty, and enormous hardship, but also hope. Once in the U.S., Jyoti attended Oakland International High School, where she excelled in her studies. During her tenure, she made time to help other students as a Refugee Transitions Peer Tutor. She continued her studies at San Francisco State University, ultimately earning a B.S. degree in Business Management. Jyoti continued her work with RT as an Alumni Tutor and Intern. She subsequently joined the Agency as full-time Development and Program Associate.

Jyoti is a founding member of the new nonprofit, Foundation for Conscious Activism

jyoti with award stage.jpg
 

L-R: Alex Randolph (City College of San Francisco Board of Trustees); Jyoti Gurung with award; Co-Chair of the APA Heritage Awards Committee Mary Nicely; APA Heritage Foundation President Claudine Cheng. 

RT Executive Director, Laura Vaudreuil, noted: "We're so proud of Jyoti. She exemplifies the qualities we see in the families and individuals RT serves every day. Beyond their determination to adjust to their new lives in the U.S. and become engaged in their new communities, there is invariably a sincere desire to give back. Jyoti is a strong and generous role model. We are fortunate to have her on our team, and we're so pleased to see her recognized by this prominent organization."

"It is an honor to receive this award, and I am so inspired to do more in my community," said Jyoti. "Working with youth as a peer tutor, alumni tutor, mentor, interpreter, and dance choreographer has been a fun and rewarding learning experience. I'm grateful also to Refugee Transitions which provided me with a platform to work with youth and community members." 

Follow Jyoti's journey in Pursuing Dreams, a documentary film and story series produced by Refugee Transitions.

 

Jyoti's win is a true refugee success story and triumph of human spirit. Follow this link to support more youth like Jyoti as they follow their dreams: 

 
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AuthorAndrew Bogrand

Here is a roundup of RT's recent documentary films--please show them to your friends and family! 

This Is Our Home features the personal narratives of RT's courageous, giving, and determined students and community leaders who are committed to changing our world for the better.

A Wish to Give Back: One Family's Journey to Community Leadership tells the story of a brave and generous family of community leaders who have made it a mission to help other newcomers. 

Follow Jyoti, Fatuma, and Win as they share their courage, determination, dreams, and talents with their new communities. More stories of newcomer youth here: Pursuing Dreams

 

 

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AuthorAndrew Bogrand

Many in our community are asking what they can do to better support refugees and immigrants at this time. It goes without saying that Refugee Transitions is mobilizing fast and working around the clock to assemble critical information to inform and help RT families. We’re extremely grateful for the enormous support we’ve received from volunteers, supporters, and RT friends. We want to share some ideas on how you can support newcomers today.

1. AGITATE AND ADVOCATE

We are alarmed by the recent executive orders affecting refugees and immigrants. These orders present a blow to human rights. And they don't reflect our values. 

California is fortunate to have state and local leaders who are ardent defenders of diversity and social justice. Call them, leave voicemails, mail letters, or visit their offices. Urge them to continue supporting refugee resettlement, Sanctuary City, and other policies that protect refugees and immigrants. They really do listen! Here is a list you can use: 

2. GIVE

The executive orders have triggered uncertainty within our communities. It is essential that affected newcomers understand their legal rights, receive the support, are connected with relevant and timely resources, and have ready access to information and means of communication. As we mobilize to meet these urgent needs, we are also also focused on continuing to provide safe spaces and as much normalcy as possible for newcomers working hard to become self-sufficient.

Here are ways you can help now

+ Help RT raise $10,000 to support refugee & immigrant community leaders

RT identifies and provides formal training to refugee and immigrant community leaders (youth and adults), leveraging the incredible assets they bring to the U.S. and connecting them with our network of resources and supports. In turn, these community leaders help newer members of our communities navigate their way in the U.S. An immediate need is funding to support the work of these leaders. They provide an essential bridge to their communities, helping to ensure that all newcomers we work with know their rights and have access to vital resources.

Our community leaders help translate from/to Arabic, Pashto, Spanish, Chinese, Tigrinya, among other languages. They serve as cultural ambassadors and peer tutors. Your donation helps us provide stipends to these community leaders as well as fund training sessions and materials. HELP us compensate the efforts of these essential community leaders.

+ Help RT stock computer lab with at least 20 touchscreen notebooks so that everyone has access

Through our computer class in Oakland, RT students are gaining technology skills that help them access critical information in English and in their native languages. Thanks to this essential resource, they are learning their rights and communicating with loved ones back home. HELP us stock our computer lab with touchscreen notebooks so that everyone has access.

+ Help RT boost our capacity to train more volunteer tutors for new arrivals

Thanks to the support of 200+ wonderful volunteers, RT can provide individualized services to 1,800+ low-income newcomers each year. Incredibly, since January 27th, we received 100 new volunteer applications. Needless to say, our staff is working at maximum capacity to process new volunteers. Our onboarding process is rigorous. It is designed to ensure that by the time volunteers are matched with students, they are sufficiently well-trained. HELP us boost our capacity to train more volunteer tutors for newly arrived refugees and immigrants.

You can also help ease the financial burden for newcomer families, or help stock up a classroom, after-school program, or enrichment club with needed supplies. To see our specific needs and quantities, please visit our Amazon wishlist. 

3. GET INVOLVED IN LOCAL & NATIONWIDE EFFORTS

+ Rallies and Events

4. EQUIP YOURSELF WITH KNOWLEDGE

5. RAISE AWARENESS, ENCOURAGE DISCUSSION & LISTEN

Share newcomer stories to encourage empathy, build solidarity, and challenge the dominant narrative about migration.

Share our new documentary, A Wish to Give Back: One Family's Journey to Community Leadership, with friends, family members, and your community. Check out our youth story project, Pursuing Dreams, or our cookbook, Between Meals. Consider hosting a solidarity event, and if you are a foodie, turn to Between Meals for a range of delicious authentic recipes that your friends will love. You can hold a fundraiser by making a meal from Between Meals and asking your friends to donate what they would typically spend on an evening out.

You will be inspired by the many rich contributions newcomers gift to our society--something we feel is so often overlooked. Follow RT on Facebook to to learn more, and share our posts when you find something that inspires you and lifts your spirit.

Sign up for the RT Newsletter

We are grateful to all of our amazing supporters! 

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AuthorAndrew Bogrand

December 27, 2016: Refugee Transitions Pledges Solidarity and Additional Support to Students

For 30+ years, Refugee Transitions has delivered services to newcomers affected by some of the worst injustices of our time. These include war, ethnic cleansing, gang violence, discrimination based on race, gender and sexual orientation, and extraordinary economic duress. Despite the adversity that they have gone through, as well as the major challenges they face here in the U.S., our students inspire us daily with their courage and commitment to education and community engagement. We are fortunate to have our students as friends and neighbors, and learn from them every day.

We teach English language and literacy skills to encourage and optimize our students' success. We do this by creating a welcoming environment structured to promote learning and academics, overcome social isolation, and build confidence and newcomer leadership.

Today, on the cusp of the 2017 change in administration, our commitment is deeper than ever. Hate rhetoric is on the rise, sparking fear and great uncertainty amongst our students. This, of course, only strengthens our resolve to help them feel safe and supported. 

To help address the new uncertainties, we are implementing these actions:

  1. We will equip our volunteers and community leaders with essential information to help students, their families, and the broader newcomer communities understand their rights, as well as ways to access critical local resources and service providers;
  2. We will host a "Pathway to Citizenship" forum at our family engagement events where immigration lawyers and USCIS representatives will help students understand how to navigate the citizenship process;
  3. We will work closely with our partners to join Rapid Response (legal help) and other community measures that foster safety;
  4. We will expand services to ensure that newcomers gain the language skills needed to pass the citizenship test so that they can become engaged members of our communities, and informed voters as soon as they are eligible;
  5. We will boost our network of volunteers, provide them with ongoing training and support, and connect them with newly arriving refugees and immigrants. With additional volunteer help, we can broaden our ability to create safe and welcoming communities, and encourage cross-cultural friendships to thrive throughout the Bay Area;
  6. We will help newcomer leaders develop and strengthen community organizations that celebrate ethnicity and diversity, and promote engaged citizenry;
  7. We will publicize stories of our students, showcasing their resilience and determination and challenging the dominant narrative about migration.

Above all, we'll continue to do what we do best: nurture the strengths of newcomer students, help their families thrive, and create opportunities for them to give back to the community. 

As the opening preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: "... recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world. "

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AuthorAndrew Bogrand

Refugee Transitions stands shoulder to shoulder with Muslims and other refugees who have been barred from entering the U.S., as well as immigrants forced to flee their countries due to war, violence, persecution, and/or extreme economic duress. We commend Madeleine Albright, former U.S. Secretary of State and a refugee herself, for proclaiming her intention to "stand ready" to register as Muslim if Donald Trump took executive action that affects immigrants traveling to the U.S.

We support the nationwide efforts to save refugee resettlement and oppose any proposed ban on Muslims entering the country.

We commend Mayor Ed Lee (San Francisco) and Mayor Libby Schaaf (Oakland) for upholding Sanctuary City policies that reflect our Bay Area (and American!) values of compassion and diversity.

"The growing cry to turn away people fleeing for their lives brings to mind the SS St. Louis, the ship of Jewish refugees turned away from Florida in 1939," wrote The Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank in 2015. But the story of U.S. refugee resettlement was not always this shameful. Since 1975, our country has welcomed more than 3 million refugees, not only saving them from brutal regimes but also inviting them to rebuild their lives and contribute to their full potential.

With 30 years of experience, Refugee Transitions has seen firsthand how extensive the admission and vetting process is for refugees. There is no evidence to suggest that the process is mired in failure. In fact, refugees are by far the most rigorously processed category of people seeking entry to the U.S. See our most recent film, A Wish to Give Backabout a refugee family from Burma--it took them 2 years to secure approval for resettlement. And refugees from Syria, Iraq, and other predominantly Muslim countries go through even more extensive screening.

At Refugee Transitions, we work with forced migrants who have experienced war, violence, persecution, and/or extreme economic duress. Many are survivors of some of the worst atrocities of the 21st century. But in spite of those challenges, our students inspire us every day with their courage, resilience, and fierce dedication to contributing to our shared communities. Furthermore, research has repeatedly shown that migrants benefit their new communities by starting businesses, paying taxes, supporting local businesses, and enriching our cultures.

We are honored that friends from Syria joined our community recently. We strongly urge the U.S. government to continue the Syrian resettlement program, and indeed, increase the number of those admitted from the 2016 count of 12,000+.

We stand by our conviction that refugees, asylees, and immigrants must be welcomed in our communities, and we invite you to stand with us!

Take action now to call your Senators and Representatives!

Find your Representative
Find your Senator

Posted
AuthorAndrew Bogrand

January 23, 2017

As we transition to the new Administration in Washington, D.C., it's a fitting time for us at Refugee Transitions to reaffirm our commitment to community, diversity, and human rights.

 

Refugee Transitions was founded on the same principles that drove crowds to attend Women's Marches in cities across the nation. These principles include a deep respect for human rights, and an abiding support for the rights of women. Indeed, we started as The Refugee Women's Program in 1982, providing services to socially and linguistically isolated newcomers such as new mothers, seniors, and people with disabilities.

Today, the journey for newcomers has become more difficult. But our commitment to easing their transition and nurturing their strengths is deeper than ever. In fact, as the balance of power changes in Washington, D.C., we're taking extra steps to strengthen our support of the individuals and families we serve. You can learn more in our statement published here. 

We invite you to JOIN US in building community, encouraging cross-cultural relationships, and promoting solidarity with our newcomer friends and neighbors.

 

Many in our community are asking how they can make a difference. Here is a selection of ideas:

1.  RAISE AWARENESS, ENCOURAGE DISCUSSION & LISTEN

Share newcomer stories to encourage empathy, build solidarity, and challenge the dominant narrative about migration.

Share our new documentary, A Wish to Give Back: One Family's Journey to Community Leadership, with friends, family members, and your community. Check out our youth story project, Pursuing Dreams, or our cookbook, Between MealsConsider hosting a solidarity event, and if you are a foodie, turn to Between Meals for a range of delicious authentic recipes that your friends will love. You will be inspired by the many rich contributions newcomers gift to our society--something we feel is so often overlooked.

2.  MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD

Learn about what advocacy organizations are doing to support human rights, and take action by calling your representatives or signing petitions.

3. ENGAGE & LEARN FROM NEWCOMERS

Administrations come and go, but being kind, encouraging, and willing to learn will never go out of style. So, at a time of fear and rising uncertainties, lend a helping hand when you can, and listen to the perspectives and experiences of courageous and resilient folks that we are proud to call our neighbors. Read articles such as this one by our advisor Clemantine Wamariya. Follow us on Facebook to learn more about the contributions newcomers are making, and share our posts when you find something that inspires you and lifts your spirit.

4. GIVE

Your ongoing support helps us make tangible impact in our shared communities. You are helping our newcomer students learn English, graduate high school, acquire valuable job and community leadership skills, get citizenship, and successfully navigate life in the U.S. From youth leader stipends, to books and technology for our classes, to community workshops--every dollar makes a difference!

Thank you for your support of our cause!

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AuthorAndrew Bogrand

December 15, 2016: "An English language class that benefits both parents and children" by Hannah Kingsley-Ma

"In a sun-filled classroom at an Oakland high school, a room full of adults are learning English.

Everyone here is a refugee, asylum seeker, or recent immigrant who has resettled in the East Bay, and each has sought out this free English language class offered by the nonprofit Refugee Transitions. Parents and relatives of kids in the Oakland Unified School District can sign up first.

These adult students hail from countries like Burma, Peru, Yemen and China. Some have college degrees, some never went to school, but they’re all eager to learn, in part to be better equipped to participate in their children’s education."

Read more on the KALW Local Public Radio website! 

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AuthorAndrew Bogrand
 

In 2016, RT teamed up with filmmaker Kate Lord to present this documentary film about an amazing newcomer family living in Oakland. They came to the U.S. as Karen refugees. The family are participants in RT's education, family engagement, and community leadership programs. They exemplify the ethos of giving back to the community, and we are truly honored to have them as friends and neighbors.

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AuthorAndrew Bogrand
 

Refugee Transitions is proud to present our web-based story series, Pursuing Dreams: Stories of Refugee and Immigrant Youth in California! This project consists of a documentary film and 14 written stories submitted to us in 2015 by our youth students. The stories span the world and a variety of human experiences, but what they share in common is the resilience and determination of our amazing students. We strongly believe that sharing these stories will help in the great task of building more welcoming and inclusive communities. Click here to view the stories, and please share them widely!  

 

This project was made possible with support from California Humanities,
a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information, visit www.calhum.org.

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AuthorRefugee Transitions

An innovative narrative cookbook by Dani Fisher and Lauren Markham, Between Meals shares the expertise, recipes and stories of newly arrived refugee women in the Bay Area. This book documents traditional recipes from around the world--from Burma to Liberia to Afghanistan--from Refugee Transitions' participants, written down with the help of their Refugee Transitions tutors. Between Meals tells the stories of students' exile from their home countries, their journeys to the United States, and their efforts--literally and metaphorically--to nourish their families in their new California homes. Our goal was to give voice to these women's stories, giving them the professional treatment that they deserve as expert cooks with deep culinary wisdom. More info and excerpts here

 

This project was made possible with support from California Humanities,
a nonprofit partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities.
For more information, visit www.calhum.org.

KQED Bay Area Bites: "Liberian and Burmese Refugees Celebrate Christmas in Oakland" 

PRI: "These Liberian and Myanmar Refugees Cook Up Old, and New, Christmas Traditions" 

Design Sponge: "In the Kitchen with Halimo's Malawah and Spiced Milk Tea" 

Liza Ramrayka: "Feeding the Spirit" (also featured on The Guardian's Pick of the Blogs)

Taking Refuge: "A Home-Cooked Meal from Burma" 

Liza Ramrayka: "Dining to Make a Difference on World Refugee Day" (This article spotlights RT's World Refugee Day 2015 food event inspired by Between Meals. For this event, RT partnered with 4 restaurants in San Francisco and Oakland that donated a portion of proceeds to RT and/or created special dishes for World Refugee Day.) 

April 9 & 10, 2016: Between Meals featured at the LA Times Festival of Books and presented at the Food Futures panel. Thank you California Humanities!

 
 
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AuthorRefugee Transitions


RT Unlocks Opportunity, 2014

 

Created by RT staff, RT Unlocks Opportunity is a quick introduction into the programs and impact of RT. Special thanks to Weston Kramer for his guidance on video creation.

Refugee Transitions: Change Your World, 2013

 

Meet some of our wonderful students! Filming generously donated by Simba Global Pictures

Want to see our older videos? Check out RT's Youtube channel

 

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AuthorRefugee Transitions

For coverage of our Between Meals cookbook, please head to the Between Meals section.

"Once Upon a Time a Refugee" on Tandem Blog, 2016

RT is mentioned in our partner Tandem's article "Once Upon a Time a Refugee: Stories of Resilience and Strength" published in conjunction with World Refugee Day 2016. 

EdSource Story on Refugee Parent Engagement, 2016

RT is mentioned in the EdSource article "To reach parents, schools try universal language on data". This article is helpful for anyone who would like to know about the problems many of our students face.

RT Student Halimo in Vice, 2015

 

RT student Halimo, whose story and recipes were also included in our Between Meals cookbook, was featured in the second episode of the Munchies Refugee Chefs show!

Nakachi Clark-Kasimu in Voices in Urban Education, 2015

Our former After-School Program Coordinator, Nakachi Clark-Kasimu, was interviewed for Voices in Urban Education about serving refugee and unaccompanied minor students. Click here to read this in-depth interview

RT on Bay Area Focus, 2014

 

Jane Pak, RT's Director of Strategy and Development, and Nakachi Clark-Kasimu, After-School Program Coordinator, presenting our services on KBCW-TV's Bay Area Focus talk show.

RT on ABC7 Bay Area, 2012

 

Laura Vaudreuil, executive director of Refugee Transitions, explains the agency's needs, services, and mission to Cheryl Jennings in ABC7's Behind the Headlines look at literacy.

RT in Forced Migration Review, 2012

In "Mentoring for resettled youth," Lauren Markham provides a thoughtful perspective on why newcomer youth need special support, and how they work with RT to create paths to self-sufficiency for themselves and their families. 

RT on Alice @ 97.3, 2011 

Alice @ 97.3 FM featured a discussion of Refugee Transitions' services with Executive Director Laura Vaudreuil and also highlighted a performance at San Francisco's ODC Theater, featuring the performances of two Refugee Transitions students. See the full interview here.  

RT on KQED, 2010

RT Volunteer Hope Richardson

RT Volunteer Hope Richardson

 

RT Volunteer Hope Richardson was featured in "The Giving State" on KQED's California Report. This program highlights the ways Californians are giving back to their state. Hope was selected and discussed her volunteer work with Refugee Transitions. Listen to the full interview here

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AuthorRefugee Transitions