The Diocese of Des Moines

Refugee Summit 2016 — 

Refugee Summit 2016

The Diocese of Des Moines Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Team attended and participated in the Refugee Summit hosted by area service providers and United Way. The Refugee Summit was held at Plymouth Church in Des Moines on October 7, 2016. The summit was a way of bringing different service providers from the Des Moines area together to continue their knowledge about how to better serve refugees.

The event was held over two days with the first having a focus on increasing the knowledge of service providers and the second with information and services that were beneficial to refugee families.

Members of the Refugee Resettlement team participated on different panels at the summit. Rachel Kinker, Refugee Resettlement Program Manager was a part of a panel with Carly Ross, Director at U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, and Nick Wuertz, Director of Refugee Community Services at Lutheran Services of Iowa, on a presentation called ‘Refugees in Central Iowa: Who Are They, How Did They Get to Iowa and Where Do They Come From?’ Ross and Kinker spoke about the process that refugees go through before entering the United States and fielded questions from the audience.

Wasan Waham, Case Manager at Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement was also part of panel called ‘Refugees as Role Models’ with Vinh Nguyen, Bilingual Community Outreach Program Supervisor of Des Moines Public Schools, Anthony Tweh, Executive Director of Child Future International and Hema Bastola, Staff Nurse at Broadlawns Medical Center. The panel spoke about their resilience and drive to make better lives for themselves and families in the United States. There was a trend at the summit that many refugees pursue careers in fields to help other refugees.

Stacie Blake, Director of Government and Community Relations of U.S.C.R.I. gave a presentation on her experience of visiting refugee camps in Ethiopia. Blake shared pictures of camps made up entirely of unaccompanied minors from Eritrea, and these minors would travel into Ethiopia caring for children younger than themselves.  The camps for these children were designed to find resources to feed them and set-up appropriate forms of schooling. Oftentimes children would leave the camps to make the dangerous journey to Europe or elsewhere in search of a better life. It was an important reminder that refugees are an incredibly vulnerable population that desperately need resources.

The Refugee Summit was a great coming together of different agencies and service providers in Des Moines. It created a forum of how these different components could come together as a whole to serve the refugee community in Des Moines to the best of their ability. Anyone interested in global issues or social services would benefit greatly from attending the summit next year. For more information regarding the Refugee Summit or attending next year’s summit please visit http://www.unitedwaydm.org/refugee-summit .