Understanding how best to communicate with and support refugee communities living in the United States can be a daunting challenge. In 2008, more than 60,000 refugees immigrated to the United States from all around the world. For refugee families, their arrival in America is not the end of their journey, but a beginning filled with new opportunities and many transition challenges.
Recently, I discovered a new research resource that can help communicators become more culturally and linguistically competent when reaching out to and supporting refugee communities. The Cultural Orientation Resource Center (COR Center) develops informational materials for refugees, service providers, and anyone interested in learning more about refugee communities in the United States.
Compiled by resettlement service providers working within these communities, the COR Center “backgrounders” provide historical and cultural characteristics about refugee groups which can help communicators determine what strategies, tactics, and messages would be best to reach their target audience. For an example, read the recent backgrounder on Iraqi refugees living in the United States that were displaced by the Iraq war and its aftermath.
What’s more, the Center has highlighted their available resources on Haiti, including a background on Haitian history and culture, as well as an English-Haitian Creole phrasebook. They are designed “primarily for service providers and others assisting refugees in their new communities in the United States,” and both can be viewed online or downloaded for free.
Research is the foundation of effective communication. Thanks to this free database, we can help refugees seeking asylum in America adjust to their new country by using these documents to deepen our understanding of their past and present, but also learn to speak the same language.