|September 9, 2013 • VOL. 51, NO. 15 • Oakland, CA|
Work of CCEB refugee program praised
Daniel Crose's English class is very special. His 40 students, young and old, hail from more than 14 countries.
This English class is one component of the refugee resettlement program of Catholic Charities of the East Bay, an organization that for more than 30 years has worked with the immigrant population to make the transition to their new country more bearable.
"The enthusiasm of refugees, as well as the entire staff, is very great" said Lawrence Bartlett, deputy director of the Office of Admissions, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the Department of State after visiting CCEB facilities.
The group put all its recently learned skills to the test in a mock job interview during Bartlett's visit in August.
"They were having fun, despite all the difficulties they faced in their countries," Bartlett said.
For refugees, arriving in a new country requires many sacrifices and a lot of work, from learning the language, getting a job, adjusting to a new culture and becoming self-sufficient.
According to Bartlett, the program has received more than 3 million refugees since 1980 when it was established, and it has the support of Congress and the presidency.
"It is a testimony that we are a nation of immigrants ... that we embrace their heritage and support these people in need who have done nothing wrong but by the circumstances of life have had to leave their country because of persecution. As Americans we welcome them to our country," said Bartlett.
"The work of CCEB is what makes this program work. We thank Oakland for receiving refugees and declare that this program will continue to receive federal support to continue being successful," he said.
Solomon Belette, CEO at Catholic Charities, said CCEB "believes in welcoming foreigners established in our community. We are deeply committed to providing resettlement services, personal development, legal and economic help, for each family of refugees under our care so they can move on to self-sufficiency and prosperity." Belette left CCEB Aug. 30 (story on Page 2).
In February, CCEB received confirmation of a three-year contract with Alameda County worth $450,000 a year to provide employment services to refugees who speak limited English, and CalWORKs clients seeking general assistance.
Thanks to these funds, the program has expanded its service capabilities with a new room with 20 computers, a larger classroom for up to 50 students, four staff offices, two meeting rooms, a master vocational instructor in English as a Second Language (Crose) and two part-time instructors for the computer room, which receives about 100 customers daily.
"One of those instructors was one of our customers," said Sister Elisabeth Lang, director of the refugee resettlement program of CCEB.
"Their success is our success, so we are proud when we hear English, get jobs and they can fend for themselves," she added.
An example is Lyanne Zarate , a young woman from Oaxaca, Mexico, who arrived in October 2012 and already speaks English, got a job to volunteer with an organization that helps immigrants and received a grant from that agency to study this summer.
According to Sister Lang, the government allows 90 days to help people get housing, furniture, financial assistance for the first month, but will extend the assistance for a period of time. And they can continue to attend English classes until they are comfortable speaking the language.
Classes are offered at CCEB's new location, Casa de Esperanza at St. Anthony Parish, 1520 E.15th St., Oakland 94606.
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