Top 5 Posts of 2015

top-5Welcome to 2016!  In case you missed them the first time, here are your 5 favorite Higher blog posts from 2015.

1. Employer List for Ex-Offenders

2. Friday Feature: El Hielo by La Santa Cecilia

3.  Practical Tips on How to Network

4. 4 Mapping Strategies for Employer Outreach

5. Congolese Resettlement Success in Knoxville

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Congolese Resettlement Success in Knoxville


Photo Credit: Saul Young

When it comes to the long-term integration of refugee families into US communities, the importance of volunteers and mentors cannot be overstated.

While resettlement agencies and employment programs do a great job at providing core services that help refugees become self-sufficient in the most basic sense, it can be difficult for refugees to know where to go from there.

Ongoing relationships with American families or career mentors can be a significant encouragement to new refugees, helping them feel more connected to their new community and more hopeful about their future.

For a moving example of what this can look like, check out this recent article published in the Knoxville News Sentinel about the relationship between a Congolese refugee family and an American family in Knoxville, TN. The article does a great job at showing the complimentary relationship that can exist between a refugee resettlement agency and local volunteers.

The article also provides helpful background on the history of the Congolese refugee crisis, the trauma that many of these refugees have faced, and the difficulties of family reunification when families are separated.

Higher has done several post in the past on both Congolese refugees and career mentoring. Explore these topics further and share your success stories with us at

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Ebola, Fear of Immigrants and Potential Impact on African Refugees


Dominique Faget | AFP | Getty Images

It’s hard not to feel afraid as the first case of Ebola in the US and rapidly increasing deaths in several African countries are featured in our news.  As we continue to resettle large numbers of Congolese, employers and community members may express concerns about their health.

We should be prepared to discuss (hopefully unfounded) backlash fears with clients, even though many have been here long before the current Ebola outbreak and may not have been in an affected country.

Liberian refugees were resettled before many of us were involved in this work, but they may be among the populations who also worry about friends and family still resident in Africa.

Here are several articles to help you think about various aspects of this issue that might have a direct impact on some aspect of your work in the coming weeks.

If anyone has plans or experience helping to overcome unfounded concerns related to Ebola, Higher would appreciate hearing from you so that we can share experiences and help others prepare just in case.

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When Refugees Can Work: The Case of Uganda

Uganda Refugee Work

Ali Daud Omar will repair your cell phone for $6. He’s one of the refugees benefiting from the Ugandan government’s right-to-work policy. (Photo Credit: Gregory Warner/NPR)

Are refugees who are able to work in their host countries or elsewhere along their journey able to transition more successfully to job readiness when they arrive in the US?

My theory, based largely on experience, is yes.  What experiences can you share that speak to the impact of the right to work in host countries on refugee resettlement success here in the US?

How it Looks in Uganda

Refugees and asylees have had the right to “practice a profession and have access to employment opportunities” in Uganda for 15 years.

Two recent articles and a 7 minute segment on NPR’s Planet Money podcast focus on their diverse contributions to the Ugandan economy as a result.  (Click HERE and HERE for the relevant links.)

According to a UNHCR country profile, the three largest populations of “concern planned for under the Uganda operation in 2014 are: asylum-seekers and refugees originating from the DRC, Somalia and South Sudan, the vast majority of whom have arrived over the past five years.”





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Friday Feature: Congolese Family on Dancing With the Stars

Deo Mwano, who was resettled in the US from Congo as a child, was an inspiring keynote speaker at the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) annual conference in May.  Check out this great video that tells his families story and highlights their performance on Dancing With the Stars.

(Every Friday we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

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New CAL Congolese Video

The Center for Applied Linguistics (CAL) Cultural Orientation Resource Center has just made a great new resource available.

Watch a 30 minute film featuring Congolese talking about various aspects of their experience for new arrivals.  Some of the information is employment related.

You can also download a transcript and toolkit to help you use the video in your work with clients.

Higher is preparing a more employment-focused video resource that will be available this fall.  Stay tuned.



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Congolese by the Numbers

Largest Congolese Population by State - total 11,009

Slide and statistics by Ally Burleson-Gibson, Data Dissemination Specialist, U.S. Census Bureau

There are more than 11,000 Congolese living in the US, according to the latest US Census data.  The image included in this post highlights the largest populations by State.  These four largest State populations comprise 44% of the US total.

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Seattle Peer Exchange Workshop Day One

PicMonkey CollageA great first day.   50+ attendees from 9 states shared experiences working with Congolese clients and building strong employer relationships.

We learned about three social enterprise models (Muses Conscious Fashion, A Woven Thread and Providence Granola/Beautiful Day).  Check out their websites to learn more and shop!

Went into Seattle’s international district for dinner at a Cambodian restaurant owned by a former refugee.

Looking forward to day two.  Stay tuned to Higher’s blog for more pictures and some tips from the field that you can use, as well.

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Friday Feature: “10 Best” Books about Congo

Democratic Republic of the Congo flagWe all continue to learn from our experience with an increasing number of arrivals from Congo.

I wanted to recommend a collection of resources to deepen our knowledge.  It’s difficult to call any of the options I found “entertainment”.  They’re a grim lot, reflective of the long history that contributed to the reasons behind refugee arrivals.

A reading list originally published in The Guardian contained several of the titles I was considering and others I didn’t know about.  Many are written by names you’ll recognize.  It’s worth a look.

And if anyone can recommend something to balance out this heavy list, please let me know.

(Every Friday we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

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Congolese Arrivals by the Numbers: Implications for Employment

Updated Congolese Graphic

Statistics drawn from the Center for Applied Linguistics ( Congolese background report available to download for free at their website.

As we all continue to work with increasing numbers of Congolese, the statistics listed in this post suggest the need to rethink three core components of refugee employment strategies.

46% of all Congolese applicants speak Kinyarwanda.

65% speak little or no English.

53% are under the age of 18 and only 27% are over the age of 26.

54% report the ability to read well in any language.

1.   Some of our usual job placement strategies around language may be less possible.  This population speaks very diverse languages, so fewer may have a language in common than in other populations.  Many of these languages are not widely served by interpreters.  With so few English speakers, it may be difficult to place groups of clients in jobs including one with some English skills.

2.  We may need to develop new partnerships to increase options for education.  This population is overwhelmingly young and has not had much access to education.   Demand for opportunities for educaiton will be high.  Partnerships with community colleges, GED and adult literacy programs, Job Corps or other short term vocational training options will be even more important with this population.

3.  More part time job options will likely be needed to accommodate ESL and other educational priorities, especially for younger arrivals who still need to support themselves and/or large families.

Watch Higher’s blog for more.  Tell us about your experiences working with Congolese.


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