Opening Our Doors to Refugees

By Dan Stone / Dec 05, 2017

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At Oliver Russell, we love and support refugees. Their stories of courage and determination inspire us. We believe they deserve our help—as well as the larger support of our community and nation.

That’s why it was a no-brainer when an Idaho-based health and human services organization called Jannus asked if they could hold a childcare business training for nine refugee women at our office. We were thrilled to host their group.

The training was provided by Jannus’ Economic Opportunity (EO) office, through its Refugee Childcare Business Development (RCBD) Project. The EO office helps remove barriers to self-sufficiency through education, mentoring and access to small-dollar loans.

Refugee 1

An intensive four-day course

During the four-day culturally sensitive course, the refugee women learned about business, customer service, taxes, book-keeping, U.S. childcare, positive reinforcement for children, experiential education in a childcare setting, local licensing requirements, safe sleep, and infectious disease control, among other topics.

Ultimately, the goal of the training was to provide the women with the most applicable information they could put into practice as childcare business owners. 

Diverse backgrounds

The nine refugee women who attended the training are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and Rwanda. For the most part, they left their homelands because of war, lack of food, loss of family members, or because violence prevented them from being able to set up a permanent residence.

“We use a holistic model to support our clients—I can’t stress the importance of this enough,” says Kate Nelson-Shue, program director at Jannus. “Enabling a person to become a business owner is great. So is providing a loan or mentorship. But in and of itself, no one thing is enough. We work to stabilize people across all areas of their lives—like relationship safety, food and housing security and healthcare access. We remove barriers so people can use their grit, drive and talents to thrive. Not only is this the right thing to do, the return on investment is outstanding by every measure.”

Refugee 2

Proof in results

To date, the Refugee Childcare Business Development Project has done a lot of good in our community. Here are some results from its efforts:

  • RCBD has an annual operating budget of $187,500—every year its childcare providers generate over $1.5M in revenue that goes back into the local economy (an 8x return!)
  • The average monthly wage increase for a woman in the project is $3,715.52
  • Seven refugee women have bought homes with childcare revenue
  • The refugee women have purchased more than 25 cars with childcare revenue
  • Every year, RCBD supports 12 to 15 new business starts—these businesses all serve low-income families, a huge need in Idaho. All RCBD providers offer care during untraditional work hours (nights, evenings, weekends) that are the most common times hourly wage earners work
  • As of 2017, RCBD providers make up roughly 15 percent of the licensed ICCP providers in the Boise area (ICCP is the subsidized childcare program for the state of Idaho.) Currently about 200 low-income families are served in RCBD childcares
  • 11 languages are spoken in RCBD childcare businesses
Refugee 3

You can make a difference

There are lots of ways you can help refugees, too. In your community, think about how you can strengthen connections between existing services, ideas and energy. Move your curiosity about refugees to action—begin conversations and make personal connections. Refugees want to get to know their new neighbors and countrymen.

What else can you do? Donate your time, talents, unwanted items and energy to causes associated with refugees. Even just talking about the refugee situation with your family and friends helps. You don’t have to give money—there are lots of ways to show your support.

If you’d like more information about Jannus, visit eojannus.org. If you live in Idaho, go to neighborsunited.org to learn about local ways to help refugees. Other great organizations to check out include International Rescue Committee (help.rescue.org), Agency for New Americans (anaidaho.org) and English Language Center (elcboise.org). 

Thumbnails People Dan Stone

Dan Stone

Dan is an award-winning senior copywriter with more than 13 years of experience. He’s worked for agencies and companies in Idaho, Illinois and Washington, D.C. Dan’s clients have included the Smithsonian Institution, Comcast, Department of Defense and Virginia Tourism Corporation. He also uses his writing for good, whether recruiting others to help refugees locally or protect animals in Africa. You can usually find Dan pounding away at his keyboard, hunting for big ideas and causes to support.