Special Projects and Initiatives
What We Do
We implement activities to educate, advocate, uplift, and give back to causes that affect refugees and immigrants.
In addition to our core programming, we seek private funds that enable us to undertake special activities that will empower immigrants and refugees to be heard and seen and affect change in different ways.
Some of the projects we have undertaken recently include:
- Universities for Refugees Project:Since the start of the Afghan crisis, ECDC has been leveraging the contribution of universities to support refugee resettlement. During the emergency response to the Afghan Parolee Assistance program, ECDC pursued partnerships with universities at branch office locations in Brattleboro Vt. and Las Vegas, Nev. to provide temporary housing to Afghan clients. This experience of partnering with universities to serve refugees set a precedent and foundation that could be built upon to benefit other refugee populations going forward.Following these initial actions, ECDC received a grant from the Welcome Fund in November 2021 to expand and document this work to better serve Afghan clients which led to the launch of the Universities for Refugees project. The overarching project goal is to establish an institutional sponsorship focus area that supports universities/colleges within ECDC’s affiliate network to engage in resettlement in four different areas: housing, educational services, co-sponsorship, and other support mechanisms during welcoming.ECDC is implementing the project at two of its branch offices, the Multicultural Community Centers in Brattleboro, Vt. and Wausau, Wisc., and activities will include:
- Documenting lessons learned from temporary housing partnerships and setting a framework for replication at other universities/colleges;
- Facilitating selected university partners to provide additional services to newcomers and become community sponsors; and
- Recommending opportunities for expanded university engagement at additional resettlement agencies.
Both Multicultural Community Centers are each working with three local universities/colleges to build relationships and implement project plans by collaborating with institutional leadership to make higher education more accessible for refugees, facilitating activities with student organizations that advocate for refugees, and providing guidance to refugee clients interested in pursuing secondary education pathways.
- Refugee integration in Virginia: With support from Virginia Humanities, we interviewed and photographed five refugees and five community members who continue to be actively engaged in supporting newcomers about their experiences. Their reflections shed light on the two-way integration process, and listening to their voices helps build empathy for the complexity of successful integration. This project culminated in an event whereby “taking portraits” were displayed. Audio clips and photos are also available online.
- Wider Welcome: With support from Open Society Foundations, we developed a toolkit and training guide to assist refugee resettlement agency staff think critically about how to engage diverse groups, including those with immigrant and refugee backgrounds, as volunteers and community sponsors. We pilot-tested this approach by training staff from 8 local offices, supporting them to create action plans for outreach, and following up to share experiences around what was successful in overcoming barriers that non-traditional groups face to getting involved. This is a long-term change process and approach that we are still implementing.
- Rethinking refugee integration outcomes: In collaboration with Refugee Council USA and Refugee Congress, we undertook a year-long research project to explore what factors contribute to successful integration in the U.S. from the perspective of refugees and asylum seekers. Primary data were collected through six focus group discussions with six to seven participants each. The findings were analyzed and organized into recommendations for what resettlement actors can do to improve integration outcomes.
In addition to education and advocacy actions domestically, throughout the years, we have also carried out various humanitarian projects in the Horn of Africa. For example, most recently, we co-sponsored the establishment of an Education and Wellness Center, together with the Health Professions Network for Tigray, in Tenedba Refugee Camp in eastern Sudan. This newly constructed facility now offers mental health services, computer literacy classes, sports, and other wellness activities, among other services for individuals in the camp.
We also continue to run the Axumite Heritage Library and support the improvement and expansion of the Meseret Teferra primary and secondary schools, all public facilities dedicated to educating and advancing opportunities for the local community in Ethiopia. The primary school was constructed and equipped with support from ECDC in the mid-1990s and turned over to the government. The secondary school was a more recent construction project that started in 2018. This project has been paused due to the current war in Ethiopia, but we stand ready to resume when it is appropriate to do so.
With our international projects, we aim to improve the well-being and opportunities for communities negatively affected by natural disasters, humanitarian crises, or conflicts so that those who remain have hope for a better future.
Please get in touch with us if you are interested in collaborating with us on a special project that aligns with our mission.