2014 CO Trainers' Exchange: Comments

During the 2014 Cultural Orientation Trainers' Exchange, 12 trainers representing Resettlement Support Center CO programs around the world visited the United States for two weeks, to learn more about resettlement, observe the process of resettlement on site visits to domestic resettlement locations, and participate in a training of trainers session with COR Center staff. In groups of three, trainers visited two locations, observing resettlement and meeting with resettlement agencies, refugees, and community partners in Austin, TX; Boise, ID; Columbus, OH; Fort Worth, TX; Harrisonburg, VA; Louisville, KY; Nashville, TN; and Philadelphia, PA.

The trainers remarked that they learned a great deal about resettlement and refugee adjustment from this experience. Following are some of the comments they made about what particularly struck them:

  • “Resettlement works! It takes a lot of time and effort, but refugees are able to reach goals and be happy as well as regain some of the dignity that they felt they may have lost throughout the process of being a refugee.”
  • The exchange provided me with credibility and confidence. I met a refugee in the U.S. who had been in my CO class overseas, and he said, “Everything you said was true.”
  • I was able to witness how everything is different, so a refugee cannot compare their case with another because the services available and the programs that each person qualifies for may differ.
  • Attitude is key. Proactive refugees appear to adjust more quickly to U.S. life.
  • There are different levels of agency support available to refugees (depending on location, etc.), but what makes the greatest difference to a refugee’s adjustment is their attitude and connection to their community.
  • Community is crucial; refugees who plug into communities and create social bonds with others adjust better.
  • It was good to see refugees from different backgrounds working together.
  • There are many partners involved who work together to help resettle refugees (resettlement agencies, volunteers, other refugees, community members, employers, etc.). It’s nice to see how the community is eager to help refugees to become self-sufficient as soon as possible.
  • Hope and success may be clouded by difficulties, but over time refugees have opportunities if they work for them.
  • Resettlement truly is a partnership between the client and the resettlement agency.
  • During a visit to a job site, the Human Resources person said that refugees can improve their job position by improving their English.
  • “Time is money” in the United States and is not flexible like in other countries, so it is very important to be punctual for and attend all appointments.
  • “I can really picture the entire process now from the perspective of the refugee, from overseas CO to US CO, and onward. It makes me a better teacher, more able to empathize/know what they need.”

Trainers participating hailed from RSC Africa (Kenya), RSC Austria, RSC Cuba, RSC East Asia (Malaysia), RSC Latin America (Ecuador), RSC Middle East and North Africa (Iraq and Jordan), RSC South Asia (Nepal), and RSC Turkey and Middle East (Turkey and Lebanon).

As in previous years, we appreciate the contributions of so many partners to this successful activity. The trainers were committed and thoughtful; the refugees they met were generous with their experiences and perspective; and the local host agencies showed them warm hospitality while putting together an interesting and informative schedule of activities, including meetings with federal, state and local partners who graciously provided information about their programs. We are also grateful to the RSCs for sparing their colleagues in order to enable this exchange between RSCs and domestic resettlement community; to the national resettlement agencies for liaising with and supporting their local offices, and to the Department of State, Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration for supporting this annual exchange.