Cultural Stereotypes: An Incomplete Story

chimamanda on cultureTo understand more about how cultural stereotypes can affect our clients and what you can do about it, check out a clip from our Employability Assessment eLearning module at Higher’s Online Learning Institute.

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Office of Special Counsel: Help for Employers, Clients and You

everifyDid you know that newly hired clients who have not yet gotten a social security number can still be entered into payroll systems using 000-00-0000 until they receive their numbers?

Neither did I until I heard an Office of Special Counsel (OSC) presentation last week.

Despite previous attendance at OSC webinars and years of helping clients and employers get past documentation issues, I still recall the pain of losing several great job opportunities because employment partners didn’t know how to process new hire paperwork without a valid social security number. Grrr.

Here are three things you can do to be sure you don’t lose some of the job opportunities you work so hard to secure because you don’t know how to help employers and clents navigate eVerify and I-9 documentation.

1.  Attend a free OSC webinar for workers, employers and service providers.  Here’s a link to a current list of OSC webinars .

2.  Check out a previous Higher blog post with more OSC information and resource links.

3.  Consider arranging to view a webinar at your office and invite employers to join you.  They’ll thank you and you’ll deepen your employer connections at the same time.


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Strengths vs Barriers: A Different Perspective

strengths successIt’s easy to fall into a pattern of worrying about all of the barriers our clients face and our work to address them.

Overcoming poverty is what we’re helping them with at a very basic level.  Our clients share much in common with everyone experiencing poverty in the US.

A recent article in the New York Times presents some of those commonalities, as well as some of the advantages our clients possess compared to native-born citizens facing the same challenges.  The new immigrant’s story featured in this article will remind you of all that is inspiring about our work, our clients, their strengths and contributions.


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Federal Funding Restored for PY 14 Refugee Programs

fireworksIn case you haven’t heard – or still want to contribute to a network-wide sigh of relief, here’s a link to an ABC News article about last week’s announcement of the release of $71.5 million in federal funding for refugee resettlement services reprogrammed in June in the face of large numbers of unaccompanied minors crossing the southern US border.

Sadly, this great news doesn’t mean that the ongoing debate about immigration reform – or the needs of unaccompanied minors already here or future arrivals – isn’t still of great concern to all of us.

You may notice that this post is categorized as a success story.  That’s deliberate.  Working through this unsettling situation involved a great deal of initiative, commitment and leadership from all of us.  It was worth the effort and greatly appreciated – especially by our clients who will continue to benefit from all of the services we provide.



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Friday Feature: Who is Dayani Cristal? (2013)

dayani cristalWho is Dayani Cristal? is powerful,  hard to describe – and to watch.  You’ll learn more than you may want to know about the gruesome mechanics of trying to discover the identities of thousands of human remains found along the Arizona-Mexico border so that the people who loved them can know their fate.

The dehumanizing volume of unidentified human remains combined with the very personal journey of one man who didn’t make it are a powerful combination.  Go to the film’s website for a list of where you can see it.  It will be worth it, but bring tissues.

Thanks to my colleague Folabi Olagbaju for screening it at LIRS as we all deal with the realities of how immigration issues affect our work on a daily basis.

(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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Beautiful Description of Culturally Appropriate Mental Health Services

Rwandan Mental Health in The Moth Podcast

Photo and quote from and The Moth Podcast

Even when mental health services are available and our clients are willing to access them, they are often not at all culturally appropriate.  A blog post about an episode of The Moth Podcast illustrates that statement in a beautiful way.

Here’s a link to the blog post also restated here and to the original podcast.

The Rwandan prescription for Depression: Sun, drum, dance, community.

“We had a lot of trouble with western mental health workers who came here immediately after the genocide and we had to ask some of them to leave.

They came and their practice did not involve being outside in the sun where you begin to feel better, there was no music or drumming to get your blood flowing again, there was no sense that everyone had taken the day off so that the entire community could come together to try to lift you up and bring you back to joy, there was no acknowledgement of the depression as something invasive and external that could actually be cast out again.

Instead they would take people one at a time into these dingy little rooms and have them sit around for an hour or so and talk about bad things that had happened to them. We had to ask them to leave.” ~A Rwandan talking to a western writer, Andrew Solomon, about his experience with western mental health and depression.

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Innovative Refugee Health Project in Seattle

EPA Somali Workshop

Fahmo Abdulle goes over healthy home tips with members of the Somali community. Photo from the original article by Kate Gibson, Communications/Fund Development Associate for the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle in the US EPA blog.

We all learned how much energy and innovation Seattle area refugee resettlement agencies and other community partners put into helping our clients thrive after Higher’s Seattle Employment Workshop in March.

Opening Immigrant Eyes to Environmental Health at Home describes how that collaborative energy raises community awareness and delivers resources beyond the scope of initial resettlement or employment services.

Members of the Burmese, Bhutanese and Somali community were trained and conducted workshops to increase awareness of indoor air quality with an EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant to the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS).

New immigrants may falsely assume that their environment and products they can buy in the US is cleaner and safer than in refugee camps or their home countries.  The article includes  great examples and comments from new immigrants in their own words.

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Introducing Higher’s Peer Advisors Network

Higher's Peer Advisors Network

Top Row: Christina Casperson (IRC Baltimore), Bonni Cutler (Catholic Charities San Diego), Tanya Dumont (Lutheran Social Services New England), Middle Row: Matthew Fortier (IRC Suburban DC), Stephen Johnson (IRIS New Haven), Brittani McLeod (Catholic Community Services Utah), Bottom Row: Nadine Pedusseau (Catholic Charities San Diego), David Roth (Lutheran Services Carolinas) and Jim Stokes (IRC Dallas).

Meet the first 9 members of Higher’s Peer Advisors Network 2.0.  We’re excited about restarting this valuable addition to the Higher team.  We’ve updated the Peer Advisor role to reflect how we all learn, communicate and do our work now.

Who are Our Peer Advisors – so far?

You’ve already learned from them in blog posts, success stories, webinars and in-person events.  Each offer unique skills, qualifications and perspective.  All bring expertise to make our network – and Higher resources – even stronger.  Thanks to each of them for their contributions so far.

Click this link to read more about each of them.

What Do Peer Advisors Do?

Peer experts are drawn from diverse audiences, including national resettlement agencies and their affiliates’ offices, government programs and others involved in workforce development. They promote our resources within their own social media networks, join Higher staff for trainings across the country, contribute to webinars and other virtual trainings, and provide their insight and expertise to specific technical assistance requests throughout the year.

Want to Apply to Become a Peer Advisor?

There is still room to join.  We would especially welcome applications that add more complete geographic representation, representation from each of the nine voluntary agency affiliate networks and colleagues from a refugee background.

To nominate yourself or a colleague to be a peer expert, email your resume and a brief explanation of why you are interested in gettting involved to  We will respond within two weeks of receiving your application.






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Registration is Open for an Employment Workshop in Baltimore

You're Invited BaltimoreWe are excited to be able to offer a 2 Day in-person Refugee Employment Workshop in Baltimore, MD on November 10-11 and hope many of you – especially on the East Coast – will be able to join us.

Why Now?

Beyond learning from each other, peer support is an unbeatable way to find renewed energy and creativity.   Doing more with less is even more important in the current climate of uncertainty about how high numbers of unaccompanied children from Central America may affect services for resettling refugees.

What Will You Learn?

You’ve come to expect interactive, practical, field-based topics at Higher learning events of all kinds.  We’ll custom-design sessions covering job development, job readiness, case management and strategies for working with special populations on our case loads now.   We’ll also invite DC-based policy makers and thought leaders so you can hear from them directly.

How to Register?

Click on this link to go to a registration form with information about cost and other logistics.  (The per person registration fee is $225.  All travel, food and lodging costs are additional.)  Stay tuned for details as we see who will join us and what will be most helpful.

(Friday Feature will return next week.  I was too excited about this to wait until Monday!  Happy Weekend.)

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