ORR/IRC: Conference for Ethnic Community Based Organizations

We have told you on many occasions about the Volags (Voluntary Agencies) that run the Refugee Resettlement program with federal grants and contracts from the Office of Refugee Resettlement(ORR) in the US Department of Health and Human Services (among other agencies).   The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is one such volag.  I wrote about them beating the drum to bring more Iraqis to the US here.

Next week ORR and the IRC ‘s Project SOAR (Strengthening Organizations Assisting Refugees) will hold a joint conference funded by you to train the growing number of refugees who are starting their own Ethnic Community Based Organizations (ECBO).   Sessions will focus on how to get government grants, build a board of directors, work with community leaders, etc.    My personal favorite is one on how to get favorable media for your group and refugees in general.

The Importance of Media for Successful Refugee Integration– Robert McMahon (Council of Foreign Relations), Joshua Yager (CBS News), Theresa Vargas (Washington Post)


A panel of print, web, and television reporters will discuss how to educate reporters about refugee issues, identify and “pitch” the most appropriate media representatives, and ensure coverage for their events, clients, and programs. Through two case studies, participants will develop step-by-step processes for ensuring coverage for programs and clients. Panelists will also address how to prepare refugees for media interactions, and how to address clients’ concerns related to anonymity and confidentiality.

Alfonso Aquilar, US Citizenship Office head in the Dept. of Homeland Security, is also scheduled to speak

You are funding Project SOAR at the International Rescue Committee.   So, you are actually funding this entire conference.

The IRC’s Project for Strengthening Organizations Assisting Refugees (Project SOAR) is a unit within the IRC’s Resettlement Department that assists these new organizations, founded by and for refugees. Funded by the U.S. Office of Refugee Resettlement, the unit provides technical assistance in the area of organizational capacity building to ensure that the groups we assist accomplish their missions, serve their beneficiaries effectively and engage in long-term strategic planning.

Now, here is what I wonder.  Why do we need all these ECBO’s?   Doesn’t the establishment of groups called Montagnard Human Rights Organization,  Bosnian American Association of New York City,  and the Boat People SOS simply continue to separate us in America, to  continue to accentuate our differences?  Shouldn’t we have workshops and conferences on how refugees should assimilate into America?  

I envision sessions called perhaps “American Holiday traditions”,  “Important people in American history”, “Following the laws, big and small in America”, “What’s acceptible public behavior in America (how to be polite in the supermarket, rules of the road)”,  and so on.

Examples of ECBO’s at work with your money 

We have written about a couple of Ethnic Community Based Organizations whose directors have personally enjoyed your money.  One was Nikki Tesfai of the African Community Resource Center  in Los Angeles arrested for allegedly enjoying the high life on federal grants.   The other was the director of the Somali Center in Nashville and his Imam (now of Kenya) who received money from ORR while out on bond on charges he misused the first grant money. See that shocking story here.

P.S.  I was going to write more about the IRC and its tax returns here, but it’s way too much, so come back later for a continuation of this story.

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