The Hyde Park Refugee Project, the first of its kind in Hyde Park, has been helping refugee and immigrant families settle on the South Side since 2015. The project also helps refugee families find affordable housing, get in touch with employers and develop their English. Language skills.
In an interview with * The Maroon *, project co-director Lisa Jenschke described the difficult process of assimilation and how the organization is working to facilitate this transition.
“Although the government pays an allowance to families upon arrival, for individuals it costs more than that to provide them with services. The first job is to raise money to cover the costs, and we are trying to raise around $ 15 to $ 20,000 for this family, so that we can cover the costs. [of living] for the first year, ”she said.
Learning languages is one of the most essential aspects of resettlement.
“When a family comes for the first time, they have to learn English because it will be very difficult for them to find a job and support themselves if they do not have a good command of English. They also need to enroll their children in school and enroll them in public benefits and health insurance, ”Jenschke said.
She also explained, “Many of the arriving families, such as refugees and asylum seekers, have not received medical care for a few years, because they may have been living in a refugee camp, or in a refugee camp. a country where they did not have the resources for medical care. So often you are catching up with dental treatment or health problems that have not been treated for several years.
The pandemic has magnified the difficulty of the already present political challenges facing refugees, according to Jenschke.
“There has been so much misinformation about the pandemic and the vaccine that we have had to work really hard to counter it. But it’s really understandable for families who are refugees, ”she said. “They often come from countries where the government is not trustworthy. They fled for their lives. For them to overcome this distrust of authority and believe that all is well [to get vaccinated] is a big emotional step for them to take. And so that’s something we’ve worked on a lot, communicating about health and safety and making them feel a lot more comfortable. “
The project has strived to cultivate a positive relationship with UChicago by providing opportunities for students who may be interested in refugee resettlement or work for a non-profit organization.
“We have a lot of students who have worked in our summer camps or who have been interns with us. We had spring interns across the [Institute of Politics] also. There are many different programs where [students] were able to get involved and really do some hands-on work. Some people may be interested in the nonprofit side of it, or some may be more interested in the social work side of it, ”Jenschke said.
Gen Bryant ’20, who graduated from college this spring, helped the Project’s summer camp for immigrant and refugee children and shared his thoughts on how UCicago students can get more involved. .
“There are so many different ways to get involved [the Project], and they keep growing. It is really important for UChicago to get involved with the surrounding community because the community could benefit so much from an institution with so many resources, ”said Bryant.