World Relief Boise helps international refugees find a homeWorld Relief is an international non-profit organization that works around the globe through relief and development projects. World Relief also actively equips churchesto support this mission through its core programs, including microfinance, HIV/AIDS prevention and education, child development, disaster relief, anti-trafficking and refugee resettlement. Like most offices based in the United States, World Relief's Boise location specializes in immigration services and refugee resettlement. Joelle, an NNU alumna, works as a coordinator for World Relief Boise, helping clients find jobs and vocational training in the valley. We asked Joelle to share with us about her work and the resettlement effort that World Relief does in the area.
How would you describe World Relief's operations in the Treasure Valley?
World Relief Boise functions as one of the Treasure Valley’s Grand Central Station of culture. Representatives of dozens of people groups (most recently, the world’s turmoil has introduced us to the Burmese/Karen, Pakistani, Sudanese, Iraqi, Iranian, Colombian, Somali, Afghani, Nepali, Eritrean, Congolese, Rwandan and Cuban) pass through our program every year, facilitating a unique impact on our community, schools, businesses and religious establishments. These people groups are on the margins of our community, residing very rarely in what might be considered a normal social existence and spend most of their time desperately connecting with people of their own culture, language and background. Friendship with the refugee requires time, regular volunteer tasks in connection to the agency, loyalty to an individual case or family or regularly sharing a meal within personal family space.
What role does World Relief play in the life of the refugee?
Our agency escorts the client through a series of steps toward self-sufficiency within an 8-month period. During this time refugees are engaging in medical appointments, legal discussions, applications for proper identifications and cards, city and cultural navigation, enrolling children in schools, planning for furthering their own education, settling into their new home with all of its intricacies and quirks, learning the bus system, obtaining driver’s licenses or alternative transportation options, case management paperwork and introductions, enrolling in English and job culture/search classes and registering with Employment Services.
Why is Boise is a good place for these refugees to find security?
Most recently, a Colombian client (we’ll call him Miguel) made the decision to move to Arizona to be closer to "his own cultural group." World Relief Boise graciously made arrangements with a partner resettlement agency and wished the client well on his new journey. After a multiple-day drive, Miguel spent one night in his new town and promptly drove back to Boise the following evening. Miguel said he was discouraged by the desperation and criminal activity of his people near the border and expressed a deep interest in securing a future and family in Boise. He did not want to "go in that bad way." I tell this story mostly because it’s an objective reflection of our community’s quality. Boise, though comparatively lacking in cultural diversity (for now), has a wholesome innocence that resonates with many of our friends from around the world. Most of our clients represent the average sweet-spirited, obedient citizen of their home country, which matches the general demeanor of the Treasure Valley quite well. On a more pragmatic level, the cost of living (while still difficult) is manageable for refugees and the climate is rather mild and serves as a near exact match to most of our clients’ home countries.
As you mentioned, some recognize that our area is not as ethnically diverse as some larger metropolitan regions. What is your perception of multi-culturalism in the Treasure Valley?
I can’t speak for Idaho as a whole, but I can make a strong comment on Boise’s cultural identity. I will default to my answer to the first question: from my own perspective (and because I am in “Grand Central” 40 hours every week), I do not agree that we are culturally specific; if you know where to look, eat, visit, worship and volunteer, Boise’s cultural diversity emits power of a charmingly shocking degree. Every year, our agency settles around 225 cases (a case ranges between an individual or a family of up to seven) and the other two agencies in Boise supply their own contribution (Agency for New Americans settles around 180 cases and International Rescue Committee rests right between 250 and 300). Though I’ve no numbers to support my theory, it seems to me that with upwards of 1,000 new residents per year, Boise is on a path of drastic cultural re-orientation. Considering particularly the amount of families who are raising impressionable multi-lingual/cultural children, I believe this entire Valley will be nearly unrecognizable in just one or two additional generations.
Thanks, Joelle, and thanks to World Relief and other agencies for all the work you do!