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.)

Please follow and like us:

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.


Please follow and like us:

Friday Feature: Baloji, Music from Congo

It’s common to hear generalizations about “Africa,” which is an incredibly diverse collection of 55 countries and countless cultures, languages and experiences.  Music and dance trends do spread throughout the continent, though.

It is often said across the continent that you can find the best current dance music by looking for the most violent conflict.  “Sorrow and tribulation makes the need to forget with music and dancing,” a friend explained while trying to teach me how not to ‘dance like a mzungu” (white person in Swahili).  That was 2004 in Malawi.  We were listening to Congolese music then.  Sadly, the conflict there continues, as does the popularity of Congolese music across Africa.

Baloji has played at music festivals in the US, including South By Southwest in Austin in March 2013 and GlobalFest in New York earlier this year.  This youtube video was shot in Congo’s capitol, Kinshasa, so you can see what it looks like today while reading along to the lyrics with English subtitles.  Enjoy.  And, sadly, too, I still dance like a mzungu, in case you’re wondering.

(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.)

Please follow and like us:

What We Learned at the Congolese Resettlement Working Group

Democratic Republic of the Congo flagWe all know that Congolese arrivals will continue to increase.  Higher sits in on this on-going inter-agency effort to coordinate, plan and develop resources to help us all respond with stronger customized approaches.  Higher will continue to keep you informed as we learn of resources and success stories that can help you improve Congolese self-sufficiency and employment outcomes.

Here are a few processing and arrival statistics and trends learned from the most recent working group meeting.

  • To date, most Congolese arrivals are coming from Uganda and Rwanda.  It is anticipated that high numbers will also come from Tanzania and Burundi.  Many are also going to come out of Southern African countries, including South Africa, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Zambia and Namibia.
  • The average processing time for Congolese is 615 days from referral to departure, which is considered fast.  This processing time indicates a two year lag time from when refugees enter the pipeline and when we begin to resettle them in the US.
  • We can anticipate a significant uptick in FY15 arrivals.  Numbers have been increasing steadily and will continue to do so.
  • The US has received 76% of the Congolese population in the resettlement pipeline to date.  That is likely to continue or rise slightly.  The next highest percentage is 7% in Australia, followed by 6% in Canada and 11% in all of Europe combined.
Please follow and like us:

FREE ESL, GED and Vocational Training in More than 100 Career Fields

Job Corps LogoIf this sounds too good to be true, maybe you haven’t yet discovered Job Corps.  Back in the day, it had a reputation as reform school for juvenile delinquents and high school drop-outs.  That’s outdated information.

Job Corps is a Department of Labor program with a national network of 125 campuses offering career development services to at-risk youth, ages 16 to 24.  A high percentage of our clients fall into this age bracket.  The Bureau of Refugees, Population and Migration (BPRM) estimates that approximately 25% of Congolese arrivals will be in this age range.

Most of our clients will qualify based on income eligibility.  Many crave education and need a range of skills to get an entry level job with career potential.  Job Corps is an unmatched opportunity.

Many locations offer a campus setting where housing, meals, spending money and a range of extra-curricular activities are provided at no cost.  Without the pressure of having to earn enough money to pay rent, clients can focus full time on perfecting their English, getting a GED and earning a certificate in one or more skilled trades.  It’s a great way to learn social skills and meet other young people from different backgrounds, as well.

How to Proceed? 

Identify Job Corps locations in your area here.  The recruiting website has all of the basic information you need to get started, including a contact form that will get a rapid response from a recruiting office in your area.  Other resources include YouTube and Facebook pages.  Much of the recruiting information is available in Spanish.

Higher recommends developing a relationship with the recruiting office and touring the facilities before beginning to publicize the opportunity with clients.  When you have applications, contacts and comprehensive knowledge of the steps involved, you can develop a plan to move forward.  As you learn more about the different career training offered, you’ll be able to screen clients more effectively and help them think about which option might be the best fit for them.

Consider beginning with a small initial group with intermediate English language skills or who share a common language and culture.  This will make it easier to provide initial interpretation and will build in an initial comfort level for the clients, their families and community.  The word will spread and you will soon be fielding a high volume of interest.  It helps to be prepared in advance so you don’t feel overwhelmed.

What’s the Catch?

There are a few issues that require a bit of strategic thinking.  These are definitely manageable and are far outweighed by the benefits.  The enrollment process can take some time.  Some traditional families might need to be provided with information so they can feel comfortable with the decision.  For in-demand career tracks, there can be a several-month wait to enter the program.

Stay Tuned for Additional Help from Higher

Higher is developing a webinar focused on Job Corps.  Watch our blog and website for an announcement early next year.  If you have experience helping clients access this great opportunity, please get in touch as we gather success stories and expertise from within the refugee employment network.



Please follow and like us:

Preparing for the Arrival of Congolese Refugees

The U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) are co-leading a work group to help support resettlement programs and communities as they begin receiving more refugees from Congo.  Higher was invited to participate in this work group along with several state coordinators, health officials, and other stakeholders representing both national and international program perspectives.  Its a great opportunity for Higher to lift up employment as a critical component of successful resettlement.

At the work group’s most recent meeting on September 24, representatives from overseas cultural orientation programs commented on how eager most Congolese are to begin working in the U.S.  One representative expressed that employment is the topic that gets the most questions during their 5-day orientation for refugees preparing to travel to the U.S.   Others expressed an interest in hearing from Congolese refugees who are already established in their new communities.

Let us know if you have a success story to share.  Here are two already posted on ORR’s website in case you are looking for some good examples to share with your community.


Charlotte Sews for Success in the Microenterprise Program


Providing for a Family of Seven


In the coming months, Higher will share more  from the work group and welcomes your insights and ideas from the field to share back to the work group as well!





Please follow and like us:

Friday Feature: War Witch (2013)

War Witch Movie Poster 1Mental and emotional health barriers are among the most difficult to address.  Employment may not address them directly, but they have many impacts on our work.  Close collaboration with resettlement case managers can help you identify work environments that might recreate trauma, alert you to the need for a longer pre-employment period or flexible work schedules to accommodate medical appointments.

War Witch is an award-winning film that portrays some of the traumatic experiences our clients struggle to overcome, through the eyes of an African child soldier and her family.  Although it portrays war in an anonymous Sub-Saharan African country, it was filmed in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which will help you envision the landscape an increasing number of our clients come from.

Although the movie isn’t for the faint hearted (or for family viewing), joyful Afro pop music and belief in the power of mysticism help sustain hope in the movie heroine – and in many of our clients.  They’ll also make you want to dance.  You can easily check out vibrant Congolese music.  Google Papa Wemba for a classic or check out BeatMakingLab in Goma, Congo from PBS Digital Studios.

(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.)

Please follow and like us: