As 75 refugees enter Appleton from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq and Myanmar, they seek help from the community at large to become acclimated and financially stable in their new environment. Appleton and the surrounding area has welcomed refugees in the past, including thousands of Hmong people between 1980 and 2005. The greater Fox Cities will also be experiencing an influx with this cycle of immigrants, with refugees from a variety of war-torn countries in Eastern Europe, Arabia and Northwestern Africa. With this practice comes some experience in relief work, but there are several challenges that the area will have to face. At a glance, there are several organizations that will be making a big difference in this transitional period.
The same above-mentioned Hmong community has its own part in helping the new immigrants. The Hmong-American partnership plans to hash out a roadmap that provides a plan of action for the newcomers’ integration into the community. Using federal and state grants, they plan to assist with casework and the employment of this large group of people. Forward Service Corp, a state nonprofit agency, will also be working to start their financial lives. The W-2 program through the state government they are using will hopefully train immigrants and employ them for jobs within the first year.
The Kiwanis Club of the Fox Cities is deeply involved in supporting the new additions to the community. They plan to support a large furniture drive so families may transition quickly into their own homes. They are accepting “apartment-like” furniture that will work for a variety residence types. Many will begin by renting rooms within Appletonians’ homes or small apartments, as other immigrants to the area have done in the past. The donations will be awarded with receipts for tax reasons, making this drive a constructive venture within the nonprofit community. This effort is an encouraging sign of organized help for the new refugees.
Many Lawrentians are gearing up to volunteer at the Fox Valley Literacy Council, which plans to help many of the refugees with English speaking and reading. This is an excellent experience for students to test their teaching skills and feel useful within the greater Appleton community. Conversely, it is an incredibly valuable resource the community provides for free to anyone who applies. It provides private tutoring on an individual basis, instead of the larger classes available at UW-Fox for a nominal fee.
Lawrence University itself has also decided to involve itself in the efforts. The old North Shore bank building on College Avenue was purchased earlier this year without a clear plan for its use. While officials determine what it will be on campus, the Kiwanis are using it as a headquarters for donations. It is there that all the money and goods given by community members will be sorted and allocated. The university took the opportunity to do some good with their extra resources, as congruent with the rest of the community.
The newest round of refugees coming to the Fox Valley do not come from the same part of the world. They have been sent to America for a variety of reasons, falling within the broad definition of “having a well-founded fear of persecution” that limits their safety within their own country. These valley organizations seem to realize how difficult this transition will be for the refugees and are taking constructive action to ease the new residents’ acclimation.