[4 minute read]
In Alaska, Providence has a longstanding partnership with Catholic Social Services (CSS) to provide care and support for some of the most vulnerable members of their communities. One of CSS’s programs, Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services (RAIS), “provides a bridge for refugees from their former life experiences to the new skills required for success in the United States,” which includes much of the support necessary for an individual or a family to start a new life in a new country. As part of this program, for over 12 years, CSS has connected refugees with temporary roles at Providence to gain the skills and experience they’ll need to re-establish themselves here.
Providing services and stability to displaced individuals and families
Dangerous situations like war, persecution, and political upheaval can force people to flee their home country in search of a safe place to live at least temporarily. These displaced individuals and families, typically referred to as refugees, are sometimes able to travel back to their home country once it is safe, but a portion are resettled in another country permanently. The U.S. has been a global leader in refugee resettlement for decades and across our country, organizations like Catholic Social Services offer support for these individuals and families as they start their lives here.
“When people are resettled, they get a second to catch their breath and then they have to find a job. It’s a lot to ask of someone,” said Brigit Reynolds, education and employment manager at Catholic Social Services in Alaska.
That is why the services provided by refugee resettlement agencies are so crucial. As the resettlement agency for Alaska, CSS provides reception and placement for newly arrived refugees, immigration services, housing services, education and employment services, and more.
When families arrive, CSS ensures that someone meets them at the airport and that they have a culturally appropriate meal waiting for them when they get to their new home. They also teach about the culture of America, and Alaska specifically, with an ‘America 101’ lesson, including cultural norms and safety tips. There is also an emphasis on understanding the new arrivals’ culture and where they are coming from; the focus is much less on assimilation and more on promoting integration. With these warm welcomes and the available support, the individuals and families that are settled in Alaska have an opportunity to start this new phase of their lives feeling safe and supported.
Finding a pathway to self-sufficiency and connection
Through Providence Alaska Medical Center’s Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services Trainee program, CSS staff connect refugees with job opportunities, ideally in the field they previously were in or one they are interested in. The partnership with CSS provides temporary positions in the Laundry department, the Environmental Services department, or with Food and Nutrition Services which can often lead to a full-time, regular position.
“This partnership with Providence allows clients to get their foot in the door of a wonderful organization that can help them grow,” said Reynolds.
Over the course of 3-6 months, each participant receives training in their role as well as support through RAIS. “Programs like this are helpful because they help refugees gain experience and learn the soft skills needed, while at the same time, still meeting with us to think about a longer-term pathway to a career,” said Reynolds.
Many of CSS’s clients come to them with work experience as well as the ability to speak multiple languages, but they often have limited English proficiency and lack work experience in the U.S., both of which can be major barriers to seeking employment through traditional routes. The CSS RAIS Trainee program with Providence creates opportunities for these newly settled refugees to work for a recognized employer, gain specialized skills, and secure regular employment with Providence or another Anchorage employer.
“A good place to work, a good place to start a career, and a good place to stay until retirement”
According to Laarni Power, community partnerships coordinator at Providence, and Crystal “Nikki” Brayboy, manager of Environmental Services at Providence, the RAIS Trainee program is an overwhelming success. Over the years, they have seen many individuals start out as trainees and go on to have careers within Environmental Services and in other divisions at Providence. Brayboy noted how amazing it is to see the growth that can happen even within just a couple months in this program. “They become comfortable at Providence, and they look at it as a good place to work, a good place to start a career, and a good place to stay until retirement,” she said.
Above and beyond being a place for training and for employment, Brayboy also mentioned that there is a great sense of camaraderie amongst her department, especially for the trainees, and this can be crucial since many of them arrive in Alaska without family or friends. “It can be challenging for our trainees that come here and don’t have the social support they had at home,” said Brayboy. “But as they get to know our other staff, I will hear them making plans to go pick berries or go hiking and I’ll see them get a little more comfortable here.”
To learn more about Catholic Social Service’s Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services Program, please visit their website and to learn more about how Providence in partnering in your community, please check out our Annual Report to our Communities.
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