Newcomers integrated through community navigator program
Journey’s End Refugees Services carries out its mission of supporting immigrants and refugees on the road to successful integration and self-sufficiency through its community-based workshops and services. The New York nonprofit offers legal services, ESL courses, and employment and entrepreneurship programs, to name a few.
The CLINIC affiliate is among a handful of other nonprofits selected to implement the Community Navigator Program. This program — supported by New York’s Office for New Americans — is designed to integrate, empower, and educate immigrants and refugees, most of whom are low-income and may not have other support systems. Over the last four years, the Community Navigator program has offered economic and cultural workshops, accurate and reliable information and resources, as well as established a network of local leadership among the immigrant and refugee communities.
Buulo Emmanuel, coordinator for the Community Navigator program, connects newly arrived refugees and immigrants with established members of the community who likely speak the same language and share similar cultural values. These partnerships are the first step in promoting immigrant integration. The newcomers are encouraged to create bonds with these community members, with whom they can more easily relate. Navigators offer guidance and support to immigrants and refugees as they explore their new communities, learn new and different traditions, and adjust to their new life in the United States. The integration and welcoming process is made easier due to this safe and welcoming experience.
Community navigators encourage open discussion between program participants and other allies during frequent community conversations and roundtable discussions that explore different integration issues. The topics vary and are decided based on the needs and wants of the immigrant community. Past topics have included work-based issues, Know Your Rights presentations, learning the process of renting and buying a house, opening a bank account, and most recently, learning how to advocate on behalf of their school-aged children, especially during the rise of the pandemic.
While Emmanuel works closely in the community to identify newcomers that may be interested in working with a navigator, anyone can join the program through referrals or simply contacting Journey’s End. Likewise, volunteers are also encouraged to join as a community navigator. Usually, Emmanuel works with 24-30 community members at a time, most of whom are from the Swahili, Congolese or Burmese community. Anyone, regardless of national origin, is eligible to participate in the program.
Prior to COVID-19, the community navigators would host frequent community-wide events. With these events on hold, Emmanuel is getting creative and adjusting his platform. He intends to host his first virtual event next month to cover worker’s rights.
CLINIC applauds Journey’s End Refugee Services for their commitment to bring newcomers and the receiving communities together to create a more inclusive New York.
We invite you to share with us your community’s unique efforts to promote integration.