In the last 4 years, RefugeeOne has welcomed more than 2,000 refugees. Nearly half were children.
As the largest resettlement agency in Illinois, RefugeeOne has welcomed more than 18,500 refugees since 1982. RefugeeOne walks alongside refugees from the moment they land at O'Hare International Airport—welcoming them to Chicago and providing furnished apartments, English classes, job search support, mental health care, youth programming, and mentors to help them adjust to life in the U.S.
Bright Promises Foundation began our partnership with RefugeeOne in 2017 through our SEL@Home: Social Emotional Learning at Home Initiative. SEL@Home grantees are helping parents and caregivers raise a generation of young people who have the awareness, decision making skills, and connections to caring adults that are vital for their success and for creating a safer, stronger communities. Bright Promises’ SEL@Home grants ensure that every child who participates in our partners’ programs has increased opportunities for healthy development and success in school and in life.
Social emotional learning is especially important for refugee children because it “restores healthy development that may have been stunted by trauma and helps children feel a positive sense of self and hope for the future. As a result, children are able to focus, learn and succeed.” (Read more)
Support from Bright Promises Foundation is being used to for a much needed range of supportive services at RefugeeOne for Chicagoland refugee families, including:
- Family Literacy Project Classes – Parents participate in classes in their homes and/or local community centers that focus on learning new English vocabulary and developmental skills for their pre-school aged children. Parents learned typical everyday vocabulary so they will be able to navigate the school system with their children.
- Parent Engagement Workshops - Parent workshops took place in a 3-part series built around the core SEL competencies. The series cycled throughout the year and covered: Self-Awareness and Self- Management, Social Awareness and Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making.
- Youth Group and Individual Therapy -When referred by a RefugeeOne clinical staff, youth are engaged in individual or group therapy, depending on their mental health needs. Youth therapy groups addressed interpersonal skills and strengthening relationships. Parents also engaged in this process by adding their input to mental health screenings and family meetings.
- After-School Programming - Children in the after-school program are all refugees who have arrived in the U.S. less than 3 years ago. Most are still in the process of learning English and each one is at a different stage. RefugeeOne uses games and activities rooted in social emotional learning that require only simple English and work on reading and writing activities as a group so that the children are able to support each other.
The two-generation impact of the SEL@Home Initiative is especially evident in Bright Promises Foundation’s partnership with RefugeeOne. For example, Hayfaa, a Syrian mother of 4, has participated in the Family Literacy class since she and her family arrived in the U.S. in June 2016. Hayfaa did not speak any English when she arrived. Through participating in these classes, Hayfaa learned and practiced basic English skills while also learning how to support her children’s healthy development during their transition to life in the U.S.. Her two youngest sons are now enrolled in pre-K at their neighborhood school, and Hayfaa is taking more advanced English classes at Truman College.
The results of this program are reaching beyond individual families as well, helping to create positive change in the community. The following is an example of the positive ripple-effect that is being created in the community of African refugees by this program, shared with us by the staff of RefugeeOne:
“At a workshop for African parents, the parents brought up an issue that has been affecting their community. They felt their children were wandering around Chicago without permission, and they were struggling to regain control as their children become acclimated to American culture.
Parents also expressed frustration with communicating with their children and understanding the culture their children are living in, which is different from the way they were raised. Participants in the workshop asked for RefugeeOne to help them inform other parents whenever children are in their home.
We offered support and suggestions, and then encouraged the parents who were in attendance to set the example in their community. While many of the parents in the room shared the same fears for their children, they had never discussed this issue within their own community. As parents opened up and shared their common concerns, they agreed to share with each other ways they can interact with their children. This was a great moment for the group, and we were thrilled to have the opportunity to facilitate this important conversation!"