Linking asylum-seekers to community coalitions and experts in Maine promotes social and economic integration, bias reduction and diversity.
Did you use the resources offered during the Improve Phase (mentorship, expert feedback, community research)? (2000 characters)
A brief video of CCM RIS AD Baba listening to the volunteer group in Brunswick talk about their plans for supporting asylum seekers in their community.
Our team worked with our mentor Biniam over a skype call to talk through the application and get his feedback on the clarity of our application and ideas. His follow up questions helped us understand where we could improve our communication about the phases of the project, who our project is intended to serve and the long-term outcomes. Biniam shared with us his own experiences living as a refugee in Germany and some of the challenges he faced in integration and pursuing work that aligns with his experience and education. We were able to share about the asylum process in the United States and this conversation helped further our vision for community-based integration and support for asylum seekers. The expert had suggestions for fundraising we plan to implement. For example, we will reach out to our current funding network and invite them to a briefing on the project to enlist support. We already provide some fee-for-service training on cultural orientation to municipalities and community agencies (police, fire, schools) and will consider how to adapt and integrate training to communities receiving the co-sponsorship model. To help communities “buy-in” we will share data among them. This also spurred another idea – we will replicate the training workshop we participated in with IRIS (see question on idea evolution) and offer it to other local groups /individuals interested in becoming co-sponsors. Related to this, we will design a companion workshop for asylum seekers so we have their voice and needs at the forefront, and are concurrently preparing both asylum seekers and co-sponsor groups for mutual success.
In what ways would potential BridgeBuilder funds allow you to pursue your idea that other funding opportunities have not? (1000 characters)
Our program is designed to support a population that cannot be served by any federal dollars and is often excluded from social services, including our own refugee program funded by the Office of Refugee Resettlement. Asylum seekers in our communities often rely on volunteers, in-kind donations and in-kind services from non-profits to help with immediate and long-term needs. The BridgeBuilder funding will help us pilot a program that supports and systematizes these volunteer and in-kind efforts in a way that the other monies our program utilizes does not allow. The large size of BridgeBuilder will enable us to staff the program adequately, which in turn will enable us to implement all aspects of the model simultaneously and at a meaningful scale, rather than funding work at in small increments that may be disrupted by stoppages or slow-downs when funding is uncertain and small grants are cobbled together.
What aspects or proportion of the overall idea would potential BridgeBuilder funds primarily support? (1000 characters)
BridgeBuilder funds will primarily support staff time in the form of FT Program Manager who will be responsible for community outreach and relationship building, volunteer training and organization, and facilitating “matches” between asylum seekers and community-cosponsors to achieve most effective placements and integration. This staff member will be responsible for providing technical assistance to the host community on an ongoing basis by sharing best practices in refugee resettlement, acting as a cultural broker and advisor where needed and trouble shooting as unforeseen challenges arise.
What are the key steps or activities for your idea for implementation in the next 1-3 years? (1000 characters)
A video of the meeting with IRIS discussing co-sponsorship with a group of stakeholders in October. In the video, community leader Claudette Ndayinihaze shares her perspective.
Please see attached GANTT chart.
What will community-level impact look like over the timeframe of your idea? How will you determine whether or not you have achieved that impact? And what outstanding questions do you still have? (1000 characters)
MEASUREMENT: To conduct the “matching” process between asylum seekers and community co-sponsor groups we will use a comprehensive intake process. The intake will form a “baseline” assessment. We will measure impact by comparing project end reports from asylum seekers and co-sponsors on the same factors assessed at intake. More importantly, on an ongoing basis the Project Manager will be in contact with co-sponsor groups and asylum seeker families to help them navigate the integration process and trouble-shoot/support them over time. Factors to be assessed include families’ assessment of their own support, welcome, safety and integration. We will also do focus groups with community groups and town officials to assure that we are identifying all relevant impacts. QUESTION: How do we geographically expand the co-sponsorship model across increasingly rural Maine communities with little access to transportation and interpretation?
Describe the individual or team that will implement this idea (if a partnership, please explain breakdown of roles and responsibilities for each entity). (1000 characters)
Please see attached organizational chart.
Lastly, how did you apply new learnings to your idea? (1000 characters)
CCM RIS organized meetings with IRIS team members, consultant Sarah Krause of RefugeeCouncilUSA and asylum seekers currently placed with host families. During the meeting team members where able to learn more about asylum seekers' experiences in host homes over the summer and get feedback about how to improve their experience integrating into Maine communities.
Our meeting with our mentor Biniam illuminated that we had assumed our proposal demonstrated who the program is for. In our conversation, it became clear that we had not clearly enough explained that the MATCH program is a program that both supports asylum seeking families/individuals and co-sponsorship host communities who welcome them. The project will support our newest Maine neighbors, and “prepare the way” thru assisting host communities who wish to welcome them but lack knowledge or experience to do so without specialized assistance and expertise around aiding displaced persons. To us this made clear the importance of highlighting how the co-sponsorship model is one of accompaniment. We are asking communities to walk alongside asylum seekers from the position of becoming long-time neighbors and community members together. The MATCH program will provide the tools for those relationships to flourish while meeting integration and needs of all involved.