Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program, a local affiliate of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Migration and Refugee Services, provides core resettlement services to newly arrived refugee individuals and families. Once we receive notice of a family's approaching arrival, we must secure and furnish an apartment where they will begin their new life. Relying almost totally on donations of gently used items from community members and corporate donors, these first homes are furnished with minimal but comfortable belongings.
Of course, home furnishings are just one of our clients' needs. Appropriate seasonal clothing is obtained through our partnership with East Nashville Cooperative Ministry, an ecumenical, Christian ministry. Refugees are able to pick out up to 10 items of clothing free of charge every 90 days. Annual coat drives held by a number of schools, churches and other local organizations allow us to make sure all of our refugees are prepared for winter temperatures.
Case managers and sometimes already-established family members work with arriving refugees to complete critical tasks such as applying for Social Security cards and short-term benefits, receiving a medical screening and immunizations through Siloam Family Health Center, and enrolling adults in ESL and children in school.
Our diverse staff comes from at least 10 countries and speaks 26 different languages, but we still depend heavily on volunteers to help clients with social and cultural adjustment. For some of our clients, everyday tasks such as navigating a city bus line, grocery shopping and cooking on a stove are completely new ventures. Our volunteers are invaluable in assisting with these lessons eventually leading to self-sufficiency.
In addition to supporting their family, one of the foremost goals of newly arrived refugees is learning the English language. The Refugee English Program provides six pre-beginning and beginner level ESL classes at various locations around the Metro Nashville area. Workign with local churches and organizations to make sure classes are in the neighborhoods where the majority of refugees live, certified ESL instructors meet with their classes for two hours twice a week. In addition, this program provides training and support material for volunteers who teach ESL in a one-on-one format with clients.