By Jeff Thielman, President and CEO at the International Institute of New England
As we enter the year ahead, I am filled with energy and hope thanks to the incredible way the IINE community rose to the challenges of 2023.
With unwavering support, you stood with Ukrainians fleeing the sudden invasion of their country; you were there for thousands of Haitians displaced by violence, political turmoil, and natural disasters; and you supported refugees fleeing crisis zones throughout the world. We faced a tangle of changing immigration laws, shifting government support, and a dire housing crisis in our region. You kept showing up, and it made a huge difference. We were able to build whole new teams and programs to meet each moment and helped more than 10,000 people who urgently needed support—an incredible first.
Looking ahead, while there’s no doubt that need and challenges will grow, IINE’s increased capacity, momentum, and strong community partnerships provide us with a tremendous opportunity. We can serve even more refugees and immigrants in 2024 and ensure that each of them reaches crucial milestones on their pathways to self-sufficiency. We can strengthen the neighborhood networks they build when they first arrive. Finally, recognizing that the only constant is change, we can put plans in place to ensure that refugees and immigrants are welcomed and supported in New England far into the future. With that, here are IINE’s three New Year’s Resolutions for 2024:
New Year’s Resolution #1: IINE will strive to ensure that every refugee and immigrant we serve will reach essential milestones on the pathway to self-sufficiency.
IINE works with immigrants in different stages of their journeys toward stability and integration. Our clients have different legal statuses and receive different levels of federal support based on their country of origin and how they are admitted to the U.S. In the face of support and resource discrepancies, we work with each individual to set and pursue personalized goals. Going forward, IINE will strive toward better equity in support for all our clients, from English language proficiency, to healthcare access, to workforce opportunities.
New Year’s Resolution #2: We will strengthen community support networks for new arrivals.
We can help refugees and immigrants feel truly welcome in their new communities by directly connecting them with neighbors and social networks. In 2024, IINE will continue to grow our Resettle Together community sponsorship program offering multiple ways for volunteer groups to match with newly arriving families, commit to helping them navigate their new communities, and form the mutual bonds of friendship that benefit newcomers and host communities alike.
New Year’s Resolution #3: We will build the resilience to weather events that are beyond our control.
We don’t know exactly what’s coming next year, but having persevered over the last decade through the challenges of a dismantled national refugee program, the Covid-19 pandemic, a sudden Afghan evacuation, welcoming hundreds of displaced Ukrainians, and supporting a huge wave of newly arrived homeless Haitian families, we know that our organization needs to be prepared for unexpected shifts in policy, conflict, and natural disaster, and their human cost. On our horizon is a critical presidential election, unprecedented climate change, and unrelenting wars worldwide.
Preparing to respond to people displaced across the world requires that IINE build systems that make it easier to quickly train new staff while making sure that our current staff aren’t overextended, that they have the resources they need to be effective, and that they have strong partners in local communities who stand at the ready to help us welcome and support new arrivals.
It will also very much depend on you—our community—to help provide us with the sustained support we need to keep responding, no matter what comes.
Please keep showing up for refugees and immigrants next year. We resolve that we will too. Our communities are going to need them, and they us, and together we can give them the welcome and support they need on the pathway to making New England a better place for all.
Thank you again for your ongoing support. Refugees and immigrants are finding safety and hope in our region because of you.