For two days, September 8-9, ECDC gathered 13 staff from 10 local resettlement offices across the country who have been piloting co-sponsorship programs over the past year. The workshop was held in Arlington, Va., and was facilitated by ECDC national staff. The event was designed to consolidate lessons learned and make recommendations for how to improve co-sponsorship going forward.
It was an action-packed few days where participants engaged in lively discussions on key topics such as recruiting and training volunteers to be co-sponsors, collecting feedback from co-sponsored families, and marking the end of the official co-sponsorship period after 9-months. Individuals took time to reflect on progress made and set intentions for how to strengthen various aspects of the co-sponsorship program at their own sites. These insights were shared and collective decisions made for how ECDC nationally will refine its model and guiding documents as co-sponsorship expands across its network.
This team of co-sponsorship staff at the 10 local sites had already built strong collaborative relationships, but this was the first time that most of the participants were able to meet in person. They went through several days of national training together virtually at the end of 2021 and since then have been meeting virtually every month to share experiences, create additional resource materials, and develop solutions to challenges as they arise. This reflection event was an excellent opportunity to build off of all the work that has been done to date and get re-energize staff to continue building this valuable program.
At the end of the two-day workshop, one of the participants wrote that the biggest takeaway was, “We are all experiencing similar difficulties and have so much to learn from each other. Collaboration is the best method for growing.” Another wrote, “One of the best reflection sessions that I have attended in my 16 years of working with refugees!” Amidst all the hard work and deep conversations, participants enjoyed laughs and shared affirmations. ECDC is grateful to the Community Sponsorship Catalyst Fund whose grant funding made this event possible.
Since the co-sponsorship program launched in December 2021, ECDC has paired 76 teams of co-sponsors with newcomer families at 11 local offices. In the coming fiscal year, these sites will continue the program and new sites within ECDC affiliate network will start co-sponsorship programs in order to deepen the way the community contributes to supporting refugees.