IINE CEO Jeff Thielman's response to U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the President’s Travel Ban

The Supreme Court’s decision on Monday means prolonged suffering for many refugees approved by the U.S. government to find haven in America. Sadly, people who have suffered trauma, lived in camps for years, and followed all the rules of the U.S. refugee processing system will either not be able to enter for at least another 120 days or have to restart the entire process.  Our staff at the International Institute of New England was preparing to welcome and resettle some of these refugees in Boston, Lowell, and Manchester, New Hampshire.

The Court’s Ruling

The Supreme Court narrowed but did not overturn lower court decisions stopping parts of President Trump’s Executive Order, which sought to ban visa holders from six predominantly Muslim countries from coming to the U.S. for 90 days and suspend the Refugee Resettlement Program for 120 days.  The Court did not rule yesterday as to whether the Executive Orders were constitutional or otherwise illegal.  Instead, the Supreme Court said the government may ban refugees and other visa holders with no ties to people or entities in the United States from coming to our country while it rules on the merits of the case.  The Court will hear the case in October and rule by the end of 2017.  By then, it is quite possible that many matters raised in the appeal will be moot because the bans will have taken place and a new fiscal year will be underway.

The Court said that some people, including refugees, may come to the U.S. if they have a “bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States.”  The Court said this includes people with close family relationships in the U.S., students admitted to a U.S. university, workers who have accepted jobs here, and lecturers invited to speak to U.S. audiences.  The dissenters to the unsigned ruling said this compromise will create a lot of litigation because the courts will have to sort out what “bona fide relationships” means.  They are probably right.

The Court stated that the U.S. may admit more than 50,000 refugees in FY17, the ceiling set by President Trump in his Executive Orders.  The criteria for admission of refugees for the next 120 days, however, is that they must have a legitimate connection to persons or entities in the United States.

Resettlement Nationally and Locally at IINE

The United States has resettled nearly 49,000 refugees as of today, and because of the Court’s ruling, the country will resettle more than 50,000 refugees by September 30.  

By the end of this week (June 30), the International Institute of New England expects to have resettled 402 refugees in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, with three months remaining in the fiscal year.  Our original target was 623 refugees (we budgeted for 590) by September 30.   It is unlikely that we will reach that target. 

Special Interest Visa holders (SIVs) and any refugee with family and personal connections to anyone living in the U.S. will be able to come to Boston, Lowell, or Manchester.  We expect to see primarily U.S. “tie” cases between now and September 30. 

We are just three months away from a new fiscal year, and by law, President Trump must issue a determination letter on or before October 1, indicating how many refugees the country will admit in FY18. 

Earlier this month I was in Washington, DC with leaders of resettlement agencies around the country lobbying members of Congress to urge the President to admit 75,000 refugees.  We will know in a few months how many refugees our agency will serve in the coming fiscal year.  The number of refugees we contract for impacts our budget, planning, and programs for FY18 (which begins for us on October 1, 2017).

Next Steps

Our work will continue, and our job remains to keep serving the people in our care.

We will help every refugee assigned to us and expand our efforts to serve a broad range of early status immigrants in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.  We just received word that IINE-Manchester will receive a multi-year, multi-million dollar grant from the state of New Hampshire to expand English, Skills Training and Civics Training programs.  We will look for other ways to expand programs for new Americans in our three sites. 

While there is some sadness in yesterday’s ruling for us and for many of our clients, we are not discouraged.  The International Institute has been serving new Americans since 1919; this is the not the first time we have confronted anti-refugee and anti-immigrant feelings.  Our clients need IINE to continue to support them in all the ways we have promised; and we rely on the support of our volunteers, donors, and community partners to continue to do so.   

There is a lot of work to do, and it is important that we do it well, especially now

On World Refugee Day, We Stand #WithRefugees

By Jillian Woodgate, IINE Marketing and Communications Intern

 

What is World Refugee Day?

On June 20th, World Refugee Day was recognized in different ways across the globe. Initially established in 2000 by the United Nations, World Refugee Day aims to commemorate the strength, courage, and perseverance of millions of refugees worldwide. It also exists to raise the public awareness of one of the biggest humanitarian crisis of our time – the global refugee crisis.

According to a recent report on global trends of forced displacement published by the UN Refugee Agency, there are currently more than 65 million individuals that have been forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations. Just in the past year, 10.3 million people were displaced worldwide. To put this figure into perspective - the number of displacements is equivalent to 28,300 people forced to flee their homes per day, 20 people per minute.

 

World Refugee Activities at the International Institute   

In honor of World Refugee Day this past Tuesday, June 20th, the International Institute of New England (IINE) hosted activities at each of our three sites.  In Boston, we welcomed our partner TripAdvisor to our office where volunteers created murals with a group of our refugee and immigrant clients. The activity allowed our clients to paint canvases inspired by the flags that represent the countries they are from, and the finished product visually represents our clients coming together as one community in their new home. We also enjoyed a live musical performance by the talented Eureka Band.

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Some members of the IINE community also traveled to celebrate World Refugee Day with employees and volunteers at the TripAdvisor headquarters in Needham, MA. During the day, TripAdvisor volunteers assembled and presented the IINE team with 50 children and adult bicycles for our clients. These bicycles are so valuable because they will create an effective means of transportation that will allow our clients to commute to work, school, and to the International Institute for English and workforce development classes.

In Manchester, due to the large presence of our refugee and client families, IINE partnered with the Richmond Middle School and the Church of Jesus Christ Dartmouth for a “day at the playground,” where close to seventy participants celebrated with face-painting, soccer games, drumming, bubbles, volleyball, and cultural dancing. These partners also held a school backpack drive, created home welcome kits, and donated Walmart gift-cards for our clients that will be used to aid them in their resettlement process. In addition, the staff in our Lowell office celebrated the day by hosting a lunch and brainstorming future activities to conduct with our clients.   

 

Why EVERYDAY Is World Refugee Day

This day of commemoration helps remind both the IINE team and the public of the importance of supporting the world refugee crisis. While it is important to have one day a year for people to band together around the cause, the refugees need our help and support each and every day. We need your continued commitment to help provide immediate and long-term assistance to new Americans.

Refugees Waiting and Hoping in Jordan

By Cheryl Hamilton, IINE Director of Partner Engagement

In the language of refugee resettlement, there are two kinds of cases: free cases and tie cases. In free cases, refugee individuals or families do not have any immediate relatives in the United States. Alternatively, tie cases are often when new Americans reunite with loved ones.

As a practitioner, I often sympathize with people associated with free cases. The reality is that as much as any resettlement agency strives to provide refugees with a warm welcome and orientation to the United States, the value of having unique connections in a new country is unmistaken. At least this is how I feel arriving in Amman, Jordan for the first time.

For the past year, the International Institute of New England (IINE) has been expanding our partnerships with universities in Massachusetts and New Hampshire to advance the study of refugee resettlement and immigrant integration. One of our strategies is to strengthen relationships between academics, policy makers, and practitioners because while one might imagine that people from these disciplines connect often, the fields are often quite siloed.

As a step forward, IINE launched a new four-part learning series in 2017 called Intersections: Syncing Policy, Practice, and Personal Experience. The first lecture focused on the Syrian refugee crisis and featured, among others, Denis Sullivan, a political science professor at Northeastern University and Director of the Boston Consortium of Arab Regional Studies (BCARS). Six months later, what began as a conversation is developing into a more formal collaboration between IINE and BCARS, including comparing the integration of Syrian refugees in Jordan with New England’s newest refugee population.

This is how I come to be in Amman in advance of World Refugee Day on June 20th, an annual event that honors the challenges and contributions of refugees worldwide. Traveling with staff from BCARS, one of our shared goals is to identify related experiences and transferable lessons in refugee protection. For example, Jordan wrestles with the same paradox as the United States whereby many residents want refugees to work and be self-sufficient, but at the same time accuse newcomers of “taking their jobs.”

It’s one thing to understand peripherally that the economy in Jordan is challenged, but it's another to arrive and learn that while officially unemployment hovers at 30%, the unofficial data suggests that as many as 60% of the population is underemployed. Compounding this challenge is that Jordan currently hosts nearly 1.2 million Syrian refugees in a country of an estimated nine million residents and growing. This is compared to the approximately 20,000 refugees that the United States has welcomed since 2015. Often pundits will extol that the Arab nations are not doing enough to respond to the Syrian crisis, but this is simply not true. Currently, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey host more than five million Syrian refugees, with more arriving each day.

It's also important to note that Jordan does not just host Syrians; there is also a large Iraqi refugee population, some of whom have been displaced for more than a decade. I discovered this first-hand when I had the opportunity in Amman to visit the relatives of my colleague Farouq Ali, a refugee IINE resettled to Lowell in 2011. Farouq works as an Arabic interpreter for the International Institute, and he and his family have been instrumental in welcoming and supporting hundreds of refugees from the Middle East in Lowell - a mission motivated in part by his family’s experience as a free case.

Sitting in an apartment surrounded by three Iraqi refugee families, one mother touches my arm and says that there must be something I can do. She is worried for her children’s future. She and her husband registered with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in 2007 but ten years and two children later, their future is still uncertain. The family applied for resettlement to the United States years ago, but the waiting list is very long. With the anticipated reduction in refugee resettlement in the United States, combined with the competition with applicants worldwide, I tell her honestly that I wouldn't get my hopes up, a statement I painfully repeat to the additional two families. The mother responds, “There is always a little hope.”

Meanwhile, their lives in Amman are stunted by their inability to secure work legally and funds are depleting. Despite their personal risk, a few of the fathers return to Baghdad to work as contractors where their paychecks are not always guaranteed. When I casually and perhaps inappropriately ask two teenage sisters what they do other than study, they reply, “nothing, we have no money.”

As BCARS highlighted in a policy report, the Jordanian government recently extended a new work permit program for refugees, but it only applies to Syrians. The program offers up to 200,000 refugees the opportunity to work in certain sectors that many Jordanians often refuse. This reminds me of our clients in Lowell, Massachusetts who fill positions at manufacturing and textile companies that many Americans find unattractive. To date, a little over 50,000 Syrians have registered for the permits, but even then, employers will often pay them less than their Jordanian counterparts.

Leaving the Iraqis’ homes, I feel somber and concerned for the mother and her young sons, one of whom reminds me of my nephew with his boundless energy. Unable to work legally in Jordan or return safely to their country as a family, their immediate solutions are bleak. It’s hard not to compare their lives with those of Farouq’s children who have flourished in the United States since their resettlement. Two talented college students, they have seized their opportunity to make the most of their move to Massachusetts. However, only one percent of refugees are afforded the same opportunity; the remaining 99% like Faroqu’s relatives must merely wait and hope for a better future.

What Would You Risk?

Imagine being faced with a terrible choice – risk persecution, imprisonment, and torture, or leave behind everything you’ve ever known for a slim chance at safety? What would you do, if your survival was at stake?

Every day across the world, people like you and me are forced to flee their homelands because of violence and persecution. This is the reality of an unprecedented 21.3 million refugees worldwide, including the 623 refugee women, men, and children from 20 countries that the International Institute of New England (IINE) resettled in the past year in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. These clients had the courage to fight for new lives, and with our help are now reclaiming the future that was stolen from them.

Recently, I met Hanna Petros Solomon, a refugee from Eritrea who risked her life twice to come to the United States. Orphaned at a young age, Hanna and her siblings had little chance of surviving one of the most repressive regimes in the world. Together, they made the decision to escape – and were caught. For three years, Hanna was transferred from prison to prison, places known to be rife with torture and other human rights abuses.  

Eventually, Hanna convinced a prison guard to let her go. This time, she successfully escaped from Eritrea with her siblings and fled to Ethiopia, before resettling to the U.S. as a refugee in 2012 and reuniting with her grandmother and sister in Boston. Yet the safety of family and a new life could not erase the trauma she experienced in her homeland. To acclimate to her new surroundings and transition to American life, Hanna needed the diligent assistance of IINE staff.

Hanna’s caseworker placed her in our English and Cultural Orientation classes at our Boston site, where she learned how to navigate her new city and its cultural expectations. Hanna then enrolled in and graduated from our Hospitality Training Program, and with the help of her training specialist found work as a server at the Boston Marriott Long Wharf Hotel.

Today, Hanna is looking ahead to her next graduation ceremony. As a junior at Tufts University studying clinical psychology, she is determined to help others like her heal from mental and emotional trauma. One day, Hanna would like to return to Eritrea and be a part of fixing its broken mental healthcare system. But first, we are pleased to welcome her as an intern at IINE in Boston this summer.

“I chose to intern at IINE,” explains Hanna, “because I want to show clients and my refugee peers that they can make it in life. They have the chance to change their lives.

In 2016, the Institute served 1,737 new Americans like Hanna. As our nation wrestles with questions about how open our borders and society should be, IINE continues to provide education, job training, and other critical programming to people seeking safety and the chance of prosperity. Our services are needed now more than ever, and we are grateful for the support and dedication of our community.

Today, we ask you to help those whose lives have been upended by violence and persecution. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift and honor the courage and bravery of people like Hanna, as they work toward a brighter future in the United States.

As we prepare to celebrate World Refugee Day on June 20, we have an opportunity this year to receive a matching $25,000 contribution thanks to the generosity of some of our supporters. For all gifts made to IINE by June 30, these donors will match dollar-for-dollar all gifts of $1,000 or more, and will provide a match of 50 cents for every dollar raised from contributions of less than $1,000. This means your gift will go farther and help even more immigrants and refugees – but only until June 30.

Thank you for your generous support, and for helping us give newcomers like Hanna a chance to change their lives.

 

Sincerely,

 

Jeff Thielman
President and CEO  

 

Remembering Henri Termeer, a friend of the International Institute

A pioneer, a giant, the founding father and dean of the biotech industry -  these are just a few ways others describe the late Henri Termeer, former Chairman, President, and CEO of Genzyme Corporation. Born in the Netherlands, Henri was a leader in the local and global biotechnology revolution. He lived his life according to one mission: to advance science and to change the lives of patients around the world by discovering breakthrough treatment for those suffering with rare diseases.

We remember Henri as a friend and supporter of the International Institute of New England, and our hearts go out to his family at this difficult time.  Four members of Board of Directors – Mike Wyzga, Zoltan Csimma, Georges Gemayel, and Jean Franchi – worked with Henri at different stages in his career. 

In 1999, the International Institute recognized Henri’s achievements by awarding him the Golden Door Award, which honors a foreign-born American who has made an extraordinary impact on the lives of others. We honored Henri because of his commitment to his patients, his leadership in promoting educational opportunities for minorities, and his strong dedication to making life-saving drug treatments available to all people in need, regardless of their race, gender, or economic status. The 1999 Golden Door Gala was a particularly emotional and special day for Henri because his naturalization ceremony as a U.S. citizen took place during the dinner.  Becoming a U.S. citizen was the fulfillment of a promise he made to his late father.

In receiving the Golden Door Award, Henri joined a distinguished list of recipients including the 2001 award recipient, Gururaj “Desh” Deshpande, and 2002 recipient Orit Gadiesh, both of whom were good friends of Henri.  As an immigrant, Henri knew that the dynamic biotech industry in New England depended on talented people born outside of the U.S. who could bring energy and innovation to the field. 

Henri joined Genzyme in the early 1980s and oversaw its growth into one of the most iconic biotechnology companies in the world. Under his leadership, Genzyme grew from 20 employees to 12,500 worldwide, won regulatory approval for a range of drugs to treat rare diseases (known as ‘orphan diseases’), and provided treatment to thousands of patients globally whose lives were saved and enhanced by Genzyme’s products.  He pioneered a patient-centric corporate culture and fought to create a business model that made medicine more accessible and affordable. After nearly three decades at Genzyme, Henri stepped down as CEO in 2011 when the French pharmaceutical maker Sanofi bought the company.  After leaving Genzyme, Henri stayed active in the biotech community, serving on the boards of directors for several organizations, including Massachusetts General Hospital, Partners HealthCare, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) and the Life Sciences Foundation (LSF).  He mentored dozens of people who went on to start and lead other biotech firms in New England.

With Henri’s passing, the world has lost a true visionary and leader. We remember Henri’s words as he prepared to leave Genzyme in 2011:  “It’s not the end of an era. It’s the end of a chapter. It’s a new beginning.”  Inspired by Henri’s optimism, we redouble our efforts to create new beginnings for newcomers who, like Henri Termeer, arrive in New England every day with a desire to work hard, contribute, and be active citizens in their communities. 

 

Photo Credit: "Henri Termeer, CEO Genzyme Corporation" by Robert Scoble (CC BY 2.0

Crotched Mountain Rehabilitation Center Supports New Americans on the Path to Success

IINE-Manchester partners with Crotched Mountain to help refugees and immigrants begin healthcare careers

 

The biggest challenge for Khem Basnet when he arrived in the U.S. was studying for his driver’s license exam and buying a car, which was vital to getting a job in New Hampshire. In 2008, the International Institute of New England resettled Khem and his family from Nepal to Manchester, an area with vast expanses of highways and country roads. In order to help support his family, he needed a car.

Khem quickly achieved his goal of passing a driver’s test and buying a used car. He was able to get a job at a fast food restaurant, and for three months Khem worked 80hours a week to make ends meet. His life in America bore little resemblance to life in his homeland where he was an accomplished teacher. When he applied for a position as a residential counselor at the Crotched Mountain Foundation, a rehabilitation center in Greenfield, NH that serves students and adults with severe disabilities, he assumed this was just another job. It was on the Mountain, however, that he found something more than a job—he discovered a career.

“I was able to use my expertise and experience doing something that had meaning and purpose and this is what I share with other foreign staff. At Crotched Mountain, you have the opportunity to do incredibly important work and climb the professional ladder.”

Khem began his career at Crotched Mountain as a Community Residence Manager and worked his way up to manage three residences. He was eventually promoted to his current role as the Human Resources Diversity Recruiter.

Over the past two years, Khem recruited and hired more than 20 IINE-Manchester clients as Crotched Mountain staff members. In addition, he holds weekly meetings with the Institute’s staff in Manchester to pre-qualify and prepare new recruits for the demands of being residential counselors and paraprofessionals.“ The International Institute is incredibly supportive of us,” he says. “They are one of our strongest partners.”

Today, as he stands in his office at Crotched Mountain overlooking the sprawling horizon of the Monadnock Valley, he has found contentment in a simple truth: New Hampshire is home and is a place where he has found personal and professional success.

Equipping Immigrants with Workplace Skills

IINE-Boston’s Service Industry Training Program prepares immigrants for hospitality, healthcare, and banking jobs

In April 2014, Asma Amahri came to the U.S. from Morocco knowing little English. Shortly after her arrival, however, she took a job as a cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts in East Boston. While this position did not meet her  career goals, it allowed her to strengthen her language skills. She knew that in order to advance in any career, she needed to achieve a higher level of fluency in English. A close friend referred her to the International Institute of New England and mentioned
its English and skills training programs. Asma knew this was her opportunity.

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Asma enrolled in the Institute’s Service Industry Training Program (SITP), a 12-week course that equips students with the skills they need to start a career in the hospitality, healthcare, and banking industries. During the program, Asma participated in industry-specific skills and customer service training, intensive English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes, and computer literacy training.

Following her graduation in December 2016, Asma worked with Skills Training Program Coordinator Chloe Walker and Skills Training Program Specialists Kelson Brighton and Maureen Carani to find a full-time job. It took less than a month for her to land a well-paying housekeeping position at Boston Medical Center, a large hospital with many opportunities for growth.

On December 2, 2016, Asma Amahri attended her Service Industry Training Program graduation ceremony at the IINE- Boston office. She is pictured above with Skills Training Program Coordinator Chloe Walker and Skills Training Program Specialist Kelson Brighton.

On December 2, 2016, Asma Amahri attended her Service Industry Training Program graduation ceremony at the IINE- Boston office. She is pictured above with Skills Training Program Coordinator Chloe Walker and Skills Training Program Specialist Kelson Brighton.

“I had a great experience at the Institute, and they gave me confidence in my abilities,” Asma said. With a laugh and a smile, she added: “I think they helped me so much. I recommend that all immigrants go through the program at the Institute because even if they don’t realize it, they need help and support.” Asma demonstrated her language abilities during a recent lecture event at the IINE-Boston site office, where she participated in a dialogue about integrating immigrants into the workforce.

While she’s only worked at Boston Medical Center for a short time, Asma continues to plan for the future.“I want to become a nurses’ assistant, and then maybe pursue something completely different,” she said. “I have a lot of dreams, and thanks to the Institute I have the skills and confidence to pursue them.”

To learn more about the Institute’s programs and services visit iine.org.

Volunteer Highlight

Louisa French, Resettlement and Employment Training Volunteer, IINE-Lowell

Over the past five years, Louisa French has volunteered at the International Institute of New England’s Lowell site office in nearly every capacity. From organizing in-kind donations to setting up newly-arrived families’ apartments, she plays a significant role in welcoming newcomers to Lowell.

Louisa’s personal interest in humanitarian work stems from her time providing policy guidance to third-world nations at the Harvard Institute for International Development. This interest led her to the Institute where she supports refugee resettlement, case management, and cultural orientation programs. Leveraging 15 years of experience as a Human Resources professional, Louisa teaches a weekly employment readiness class known as the “Job Club,” which is held every Friday. During these sessions, Louisa educates predominately Swahili and Arabic speaking clients on interviewing, time management, industry-specific vocabulary, administrative tasks, and U.S. labor laws. In addition to providing practical job readiness skills, the course gives clients an extra opportunity to practice English.

Louisa finds volunteering deeply gratifying and enjoys seeing clients progress through the Institute’s services.

Learning English is the key to success. It allows for greater integration into American society and opens doors to future opportunities.

In the first six months of the fiscal year that began on October 1, 2016, over 200 people have volunteered at the Institute, contributing nearly 13,000 hours of service to the Institute’s refugee and immigrant clients. The generosity of volunteers like Louisa is critical to the Institute’s work of helping new Americans contribute to their new communities.

Employee Spotlight

We asked our employees what they like most about their jobs at IINE. Here’s what they said:

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Britney Aranda, Home Study and Post
Release Program Case Manager, IINE-Boston

“I’m able to advocate for our minors while
giving them a voice that empowers them to
thrive. There’s no greater feeling than seeing a client succeed.”

 
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Molly Short Carr, Program Director,
IINE-Manchester

“I’m excited to join IINE at a time when
we’re looking at how to better care for the
populations we serve. The investment in
building sustainable solutions is refreshing.”

 

 

 

Siham Erramli, Employment Services
Case Specialist, IINE-Boston

“My job continuously teaches me about
people, about compassion, and about myself.
In helping others, I am reminded that we are
all in this together.”

 
 

 

 

Amadou Hamady, Community
Relations Director, IINE-Manchester

“I enjoy the sincere appreciation I receive from
not only my boss and my colleagues, but the
clients and providers I work with. My work
truly values people on a personal level.”

 
 

 

 

Richard Kokro, Refugee Resettlement
Services Case Specialist, IINE-Lowell

“I have a great zeal for listening to people and
understanding their plights. In this job I’m able
to make an impact in their lives and help them
attain their goals.”

 

 

 

Peter Saati, Office and
Volunteer Coordinator, IINE-Lowell

“I love the moment after English class breaks
out and clients from around the world pour
into the lobby laughing and smiling. It’s truly
outstanding.”

The International Institute of New England Receives $10K Grant from the Boston Foundation

 

“The Boston Foundation awarded The International Institute of New England (IINE) a grant of $10,000,” Jeff Thielman, CEO and President of the International Institute said today. According to Thielman, the grant will help expand the Institute’s volunteer program and establish a volunteer coordinator position at their Boston site office.

“There is an overwhelming amount of community interest in protecting the refugee admissions process, welcoming immigrants, and supporting services that help new Americans integrate and thrive,” he said. “The grant from the Boston Foundation will give us additional resources to sustain our public engagement and education initiatives.”

In operation for nearly a century, IINE is one of the oldest and largest social service organizations for new Americans in the region. Each year, the Institute serves nearly 2,000 refugee, asylee, and immigrant clients across their three sites in Boston and Lowell, Massachusetts, and Manchester, New Hampshire. To learn more about the Institute visit iine.org.

The Boston Foundation serves as a major civic leader, think tank, and advocacy organization in Greater Boston. The Philanthropic Initiative (TPI), an operating unit of the Foundation, designs and implements customized philanthropic strategies for families, foundations and corporations around the globe. For more information about the Boston Foundation and TPI, visit tbf.org or call 617-338-1700.

2017 International Women’s Day Luncheon: Global Stories of Inspiration

On March 8, 2017, nearly 400 people – including employees of 38 Greater Boston companies – joined clients and staff of the International Institute of New England (IINE), Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, and WCVB news anchor Maria Stephanos to celebrate International Women’s Day.

This year, IINE observed the day by hosting a luncheon in the impressive Great Room at 60 State Street in downtown Boston to recognize the contributions and success of global women and to honor three extraordinary women: Boston Common Asset President and Founder Geeta Aiyer, WGBH Reporter, Creator/Host of “Otherhood” and Co-Host of “The World” Rupa Shenoy, and AARP Chief Medical Officer Charlotte Yeh, M.D.

Telling Their Stories

IINE was honored to have Boston Mayor Marty Walsh provide welcoming remarks, during which he spoke of the city’s increased focus on gender equality, diversity, and the wage gap. "I'm a labor guy. I stand for equal pay for equal work,” he said. “We're going to stand for women's health. We're also going to make sure that we celebrate the diversity of our city."

Maria Stephanos then moderated a panel discussion where the honorees shared inspiring personal stories about how their personal and professional lives were shaped by being an immigrant or the daughter of immigrants.

When asked how she would counter the argument that her parents should not have come to the U.S., Dr. Yeh, whose parents flew in from Pittsburgh for the event, responded: “My parents have demonstrated fearlessness, resiliency, compassion, and the drive to put education above all else. It is these characteristics and qualities as a child of refugees that I have emulated to become a doctor, a surgeon, a businesswoman, and the Chief Medical Officer of AARP.”

For many, the immigrant experience has left them feeling conflicted about their identities. “I have always felt like I’ve lived a hyphenated life,” said Geeta Aiyer, who was the second woman immigrant from India to attend Harvard Business School and has since built one of the largest woman-owned investment firms in Boston. “I strive to be the best Indian-mother, the best American-mother, and the best woman-entrepreneur.”

As a child of immigrant parents from India, Rupa Shenoy also has always felt as though she’s had a foot in two worlds. Through her podcast “Otherhood,” she elevates the conversation about what it means to be ‘other’ in this country. “My podcast was born out of my obsession to give a voice to first-generation immigrants, otherwise known as ‘new American’ citizens. Through storytelling, my voice is also heard,” she said during the discussion. She bonded with Geeta over the legend that somehow all immigrants from India come to the U.S. “with seven dollars in their pockets”.  

The conversation between these remarkable and talented women underscored how significant new Americans are to the vitality and renewal of our nation, and how strong women leaders in all their diversities strengthen our communities. “I made the choice to remain in the U.S. It was my ‘free will’ to become an American citizen,” said Geeta. “I feel a sense of loyalty and am motivated to contribute to this country in exceptional ways.”

The Discussion Isn’t Over

The International Institute of New England serves nearly 2,000 refugees and immigrants each year. The majority of those we serve fled nations where they were persecuted for religious and political beliefs, and even their gender. Many of these women protected their families as they fled war and violence in places like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iraq, Somalia, Syria, and other countries. They have overcome incredible odds to come to New England and they are determined to contribute to life in their new country. It is for this very reason that we must continue to support and provide critical services to vulnerable populations, especially women, not just on March 8th, but on every day of the year.

TripAdvisor Leads the Charge on Refugee Crisis

IINE-Boston partners with TripAdvisor to locally respond to the global humanitarian issue.

When the worldwide migrant and refugee crisis hit its peak in 2015, TripAdvisor’s CEO Steve Kaufer invited the company’s traveler community to support organizations that help refugees, and the company agreed to match their donations dollar for dollar.

In September of 2016, following the White House Summit on Refugees, TripAdvisor, the world’s largest travel site, committed to donate $5 million to organizations that support refugees. The company pledged to educate its employees about the global refugee crisis and emerged as a leader on this issue.

During IINE’s recent visit to TripAdvisor, employees assembled 150 hygiene kits for the Institute’s refugee, immigrant, and asylee clients in Lynn, MA to support workplace readiness.

During IINE’s recent visit to TripAdvisor, employees assembled 150 hygiene kits for the Institute’s refugee, immigrant, and asylee clients in Lynn, MA to support workplace readiness.

On November 9, 2016, IINE’s President and CEO Jeff Thielman, Refugee Resettlement and Employment Services Manager Ashley Wellbrock, and Community Services Case Specialist Rahmatullah Aka, participated in a “Fireside Chat” with TripAdvisor’s Human Resources team and other staff in their Needham office.

During the visit, Jeff and Ashley spoke about the Institute’s mission and work, and Rahmatullah, himself a refugee from Afghanistan, shared his personal journey with 150 TripAdvisor employees. In response, employees assembled and donated hygiene kits and interview preparation booklets and handouts to support workplace readiness.

Employees followed the November meeting by collecting 700 pounds of clothing and household items, and $750 worth of gift cards for distribution to IINE clients to cover basic needs such as food and transportation. In addition to in-kind support, the TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation generously donated $30,000 to the Institute to help sustain services to new Americans.

As part of its commitment, TripAdvisor plans to continue hosting educational events about the refugee crisis for employees, area foundations, other corporations, and local communities. By developing a meaningful way for the company, its employees, and even its customers, to support refugee relief, TripAdvisor is setting the standard for how a company should engage in social responsibility.

“We wanted to do more than just support this cause with a donation,” said Tali Golan, Head of the TripAdvisor Charitable Foundation who has visited refugee resettlement camps as part of her work. “We’re the largest online travel company in the world, and our customers span the globe. We are experiencing the largest refugee crisis since World War II. While we support a political solution to the crisis, we want to make a difference in a meaningful way and can do that globally as well as locally by supporting organizations like the International Institute of New England.”

Fostering Friendships over Food

IINE-Lowell and local community groups unite residents and newcomers at shared dinners.

On Jan. 24, 2017, Lowell community members and three newly- arrived Congolese families gathered for a meal at IINE-Lowell’s site office. The potluck meal was hosted by the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

On Jan. 24, 2017, Lowell community members and three newly- arrived Congolese families gathered for a meal at IINE-Lowell’s site office. The potluck meal was hosted by the local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

Khalil Abdo’s smile disguises the difficult journey that brought his family from Syria to Lowell, Massachusetts. In 2013, war and violence forced them to leave their homeland, and in 2016 they became some of the few Syrians granted resettlement in the U.S. When the family of seven arrived, Khalil knew little English and relied on interpreters to navigate his new surroundings. In Lowell he faced challenges as he adjusted to a new community, addressed urgent medical issues, and searched for employment. The first months for any refugee in the United States are challenging, yet can be eased by a warm welcome from new neighbors. Last summer, IINE-Lowell staff worked with community and faith groups to organize a series of welcome dinners for newly arrived refugees. Since the launch, 12 refugee families have participated in a welcome dinner, including the Abdo family who attended one hosted by IINE supporters in Andover, Mass.

Held in a local hall, the space was brightly decorated and an array of ethnic and traditional American foods was available for all to enjoy. The dynamic at each welcome dinner is slightly different. When a group of professors hosted Congolese families recently, the hosts and their guests spontaneously broke out in African dancing. At another dinner, the group discussed shared interests and cultural traditions. In Andover, Khalil and his wife and children practiced English and Arabic words with their new friends over chocolate cake.

Welcome dinners are easy to organize, and their impact is enduring. Through the relationships formed, refugees secure play dates for their children, learn about job opportunities, and get insights on the American healthcare system and culture. At the same time, families such as Khalil’s share the experience of their journey with their hosts. This gives American families an intimate perspective on the global refugee crisis. At the end of dinner in Andover, Khalil surprised the organizers by sharing that the evening was his sixth-month anniversary in the U.S. Smiling, he told the group, “This is the first night in the country where I only feel joy, only joy. Thank you.”

Many of these welcome dinners are hosted by Resettle Together volunteers, a growing network of community partners who help refugee families rebuild their lives in New England.  They also provide immediate and long-term support to refugees and immigrants on the road to self-sufficiency. If you’re interested in becoming a Resettle Together partner, contact Cheryl Hamilton at chamilton@iine.org.

Volunteer Spotlight

Thank you for your dedication and continued support of the Institute.

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Karen Márquez, IINE-Boston

On why she volunteers: “I am an ESOL volunteer and I assist the teachers with their lessons. I also have the opportunity to teach lessons myself and it is the most rewarding feeling in the world!”

 

Calley Milne, IINE-Manchester

Calley became a volunteer after reading a newspaper article about the Institute’s first resettled Syrian family. She has since been dedicated to helping them adjust to their new lives in Manchester.

 

Aneela Qureshi, IINE-Lowell

On why she volunteers: “I’m the daughter of two immigrant parents who came to this country from Pakistan with literally just theclothes on their back. By helping our friends at IINE, I am just paying it forward like so many folks did for my family.”

 

Elaine Schaffner, IINE-Manchester

Elaine is a volunteer from Manchester’s local Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. She has brought nearly 30 other volunteers to the Institute and has secured two storage units for in-kind donations!

 

Ursula Stone, IINE-Boston

On why she volunteers: “What motivated me to volunteer were my vivid memories of leaving my country, family, friends, and language behind to make a new life in aforeign place. If I can help make the transition for others easier, I’m glad to do so.”

 

Bill Watson, IINE-Lowell

For over six years, Bill has volunteered in nearly every facet of the English forEmployment Program. Currently, he leads the computer literacy, learner’s permit, and phonics classes.

Employee Highlight

Famoh Toure, Interpreting Program Coordinator

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A refugee himself, Famoh grew up in Guinea and immigrated to New Jersey in December of 2000. In June 2002, he moved to New Hampshire. He earned both a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and Organizational Leadership and a master’s degree in International Community Economic Development from Southern New Hampshire University. During graduate school, he became familiar with the Institute’s work through volunteering in case management and employment services at the IINE- Manchester site office. Famoh previously worked as a Case Manager for Community Bridges, a New Hampshire nonprofit that supports individuals with disabilities, and as a Project Coordinator at the Concord Development Center for Immigrants where he designed literacy programs.

As Interpreting Program Coordinator, Famoh recruits, screens, hires, and trains interpreters for IINE-Manchester’s new Interpreting Services Program, Pinpoint Translation. Pinpoint Translation is a joint partnership between IINE-Manchester and Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island (DIIRI). Famoh acts as the Institute’s liaison with DIIRI, conducting client outreach, and engaging potential business partners who are interested in translation services. Famoh’s long-term engagement with New Hampshire’s refugee and immigrant community enabled him to contract and train 82 immigrant and refugee interpreters.

Famoh is glad to have found his way back to the Institute and is excited to build a team of professional interpreters and translators to support the growing foreign-born community in New Hampshire.

For more information about Interpreting and Translation Services, email Famoh at ftoure@iine.org.

An International Romance

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On Valentine’s Day, people across the world celebrate their love for each other by exchanging cards, candy, flowers, and heart-shaped gifts. While it appears Cupid is particularly busy shooting his love-laced arrows this time of year, we often forget that love doesn’t usually find its way on a Hallmark-sponsored holiday. In fact, many people stumble upon love at a time and place where it’s least expected. Some call this happenstance, others call it fate. The story of Carol and Herbert’s meeting is just that – a story of happenstance that brought two people from different worlds together.

It was March 29, 1962 when Carol arrived at Boston Logan Airport from Scotland. The 21-year-old came to the U.S. for a year-long contract to nanny for a local family after a classmate, who was already working as a nanny in Boston, wrote a letter urging her to come. It wasn’t long after her arrival that her friend introduced Carol to the International Institute of Boston (now International Institute of New England). During their days off, they attended events at the Institute, which was a social hub for the local immigrant and refugee community. It hosted events for locals and immigrants alike such as dances, games nights, and bus trips around the city.

On the rainy evening of June 24, the girls found themselves back at the Institute for dancing after a trip to Thompson Island, one of the Boston Harbor Islands, was rained-out. The young women danced for a short time but decided to leave after receiving unwanted attention from several male guests. Making their way down the stairs from the third floor of the Institute, they found themselves among a group of party-goers on the next landing. Suddenly, a seemingly-confident young man strode over to the girls. “My name is Herbert Schuler,” he said, extending his hand to each, “my friends and I are having a party and would like you to join us.” After a whispered discussion, the girls decided to go with Herbert and his friends even though they were complete strangers. Later they discovered that the 33-year-old had emigrated from Germany six years prior to join his sister in the U.S., and despite his boisterous appearance, was actually quite shy.

After a low-key evening spent with their new German friends, the girls were escorted to the nearest T-station where everyone exchanged phone numbers. The young women agreed that Herbert resembled the young Lieutenant in the musical South Pacific and they both really liked him. A few days later, Carol was surprised to receive a call from Herbert who asked her out on a date. They had such a great time that their first date led to a second, and then a third. The chemistry between the two was undeniable, and when Herbert proposed marriage on their third date, Carol couldn’t refuse. The two became engaged in August of ‘62, and got married the following May.

Fifty-five years later, the couple has three children and four grandchildren whom they see often. Who knows if Cupid was flying around the Institute that night, but Carol told IINE staff that she believes not only are they fortunate to have found each other, but it was the best of luck to have met Herbert at the International Institute of New England all those years ago.

Have an 'international' love story? Share it in the comments section below!

Our Mission Continues

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President Trump’s executive order suspending the refugee resettlement program, placing an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, and halting the issuance of visas to people from seven predominantly Muslim countries, is an affront to our nation’s values and our Constitution. It is also a direct attack on the mission of the International Institute of New England.

The President is playing on fear. Because we work with people who have overcome so much to get here, we do not give in to fear. No executive order will stop the Institute from serving refugees and immigrants.

We are the largest refugee resettlement program in Eastern Massachusetts and Southern New Hampshire, and we know better than anyone that the people we serve from around the world come here seeking peace. Refugees and their families are our neighbors. They work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to the cultural, economic, and civic life of New England and beyond.

The President’s order does not make America safe or great. Rather, it signals that the United States is retreating from its responsibility to lead as the world wrestles with the largest refugee crisis since the end of World War II.

The International Institute will continue to provide critical services to the more than 625 refugees currently in our care, and with your help, we will be ready to receive new refugees when the program restarts. Our skills training, English language, and job placement programs for refugees and immigrants will continue to thrive and grow as well. 

We urge our friends and neighbors to speak out against this action. We ask you to support us in any way you can.

We also ask you to learn more about us by reading about our work in The New York Times, CNN, public radio, The Boston Globe, and other outlets. To read full media stories, please visit the Institute's Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.

Thank you for your support of our clients and mission during this critical time.

Gratefully,

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Jeff Thielman
President and CEO  

Statement on Anticipated Executive Order on the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program

                   January 25, 2017

 


We are disappointed by reports of the President’s anticipated decision to suspend the United States refugee resettlement program for 120 days, to discontinue issuing visas to people from Syria and other predominately-Muslim countries, and to reduce the number of refugees who will enter the country from 110,000 to 50,000 this fiscal year.

Suspending a humanitarian program that serves vulnerable refugees fleeing war and violence does not make America great or safe.  Of all immigrants, refugees are the most vetted and the most in need of protection. We are particularly distressed that those who have suffered trauma and persecution, including children en route to the U.S., may not be able to join their families here.

The anticipated executive order signals that the U.S. Government is walking away from its responsibility to lead as the world wrestles with the largest refugee crisis since the end of World War II. Refugees and their families are our neighbors, and just like you and me work hard, pay taxes, and contribute to the cultural, economic, and civic life of New England and beyond.

It is important that people in Massachusetts and New Hampshire speak against this action not just because it is contrary to the founding values of this country, but because it will tangibly affect the economic prosperity of our region. As New England’s workforce ages, businesses will increasingly rely on new Americans to grow. Quite simply, the U.S. resettlement program helps American communities become better places to work and live.

The work of the International Institute of New England will not stop. We remain committed to welcoming and supporting newly-arrived refugees as soon as the suspension ends. In the meantime, we will continue to serve the refugee women, men, and children we have resettled during the past year and to offer skills training, English language instruction, and other programming to immigrants of all backgrounds. At this critical time for new Americans, we remain focused on helping them find stability and achieve success in our shared communities.

Jeff Thielman President and CEO

Jeff Thielman
President and CEO

 

Give the Gift of Selflessness

‘Tis the season for giving – or at least that’s what we have always been told this time of year. With endless displays of flashy new toys and gadgets, however, it’s almost impossible to ignore the materialism that accompanies the holidays. We rationalize each gift purchase as being “selfless”, while simultaneously dreaming about what delicately-wrapped treasures await us in exchange. If the holidays are a time of giving, why do we always expect something in return? 

This Thanksgiving, Make Room for Everyone at the Table

The election is over, ballots have been counted, and the results are in: This Thanksgiving, families may see a far bigger divide than who prefers dark meat over light meat. While Thanksgiving is meant to be a time to gather for a feast with your loved ones and even welcome new guests to the table, the sad truth is that many people may be crossing guests off their invitation list this year.