IPS was honored to host our valued community partners during our recent Refugee Summit. Wednesday, over 30 stakeholders representing more than a dozen organizations joined us at Forest Manor Professional Development Center to discuss how our community can best serve our refugee and immigrant families. Participants exchanged insightful ideas to help support our newest neighbors with basic resources – including education, housing, healthcare, employment and safety measures – to start a new life here in the Indianapolis area.
“We hope to have a discussion about what we believe are the needs of our community and what we’re doing to address those needs,” said Jessica Feeser who leads the IPS ESL department. “If we identify needs that aren’t being met, we’ll address what we can do to find solutions; because we know our newest neighbors have lots of needs and we have lots of resources.”
 
Each of our guests explained why they were compelled to attend our Summit. They also described what they hope to achieve.
 
“I’m here to learn about what folks are doing, collaborate with folks and see how the federal government – in particular the Congressman’s office – can support that work,” explained Kathy Souchet-Downey, Latino Outreach Coordinator for the Office of Congressman Andre Carson.
 
“Our families bring many assets, so we want to learn how to best use our assets to help them be successful,” said Charlie Wiles, Executive Director for Center for Interfaith Cooperation.
 
After introductions, participants were divided into groups where they discussed trends, needs and obstacles they’ve encountered during their work to help immigrant families. The groups then reunited to share observations about what is occurring and potential solutions to address what still needs to be accomplished.
 
“We’ve found a lot of our teachers do not know Spanish,” said Sister Norma Rockage, Executive Director for Marian University’s Education Formation Outreach.  “As a result, we’ve been offering a not-for-credit course called ‘Practical Spanish for Teachers’ to teach them enough Spanish so they will be able to talk [with] parents. We also instruct teachers about cultural competencies because a lot of times they don’t understand at all how to relate.”
 
Our refugee and immigrant support conversations will be ongoing. In future meetings, we will also discuss long-term plans that will help our newcomers become self-sufficient in the future.
 
Our community is a melting pot, representing a variety of races and ethnicities. Our differences make us stronger. We are proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with our partners to proudly serve our public. We will continue to provide updates regarding future Summits, other initiatives and activities to support our newest neighbors.