Syrian Community Network works to serve, connect and empower our client base by stabilizing and securing families, providing housing, social services, education, basic human needs and food security. We also connect clients to psychosocial services and healthcare resources. Providing a warm welcome is crucial as we familiarize our families with diverse communities beyond their own ethnic and cultural community. As the voice of the Syrian refugees, our advocacy efforts locally/nationally include championing refugee resettlement, dismantling national barriers and international impediments to resettlement, and to stabilize and procure support for refugees.
In order to assist in the transition process and provide a familiar setting where the refugees we serve can meet and network with others with similar goals and/or facing the same challenges, SCN provides an array of training programs based on the current needs of the Syrian community.
Emergency Rental Assistance
One of the biggest challenges we have is how to support the families with their rent. Even if parents work for minimum wage, they are often unable to pay the high cost of rent. The federal refugee program offers financial support for only three months, and after that SCN provides another six months of support, if needed. To this day, we have paid over $350,000 which has prevented homelessness and instability.
SCN officially kicked off its volunteer program on January 23rd, 2016, by hosting its first ever volunteer training at the Bezazian branch of the Chicago Public Library. That day, 39 volunteers learned about the refugee resettlement process and the ins and outs of becoming a volunteer, whether as a mentor or in a reserve capacity.
Since then 7 additional training sessions have been held, and the response from Chicagoans has been tremendous. From a pool of 400 total trained volunteers, SCN has matched 146 mentors with 75 families living on the north side of Chicago, with another 20 volunteers matched with families living in Aurora and the West suburbs. Beginning earlier this year, SCN also helped train 35 volunteers for two partner organizations, SIRAT and PARR, which work to serve refugee families living in the Hyde Park area.
Our volunteers do more than just lend a helping hand – they are a friendly face to someone feeling lonely, they are a bridge away from someone’s isolation. They connect the families to their new community.
Case management is a collaborative process that includes assessment, planning, facilitation, care coordination, evaluation, and advocacy on behalf of the client.
It serves as the means by which one can assist a client in achieving wellness and autonomy. Each session aims to provide the services needed and to set goals to help him or her gain independence and improve well-being.
A Case Manager’s goal is to build rapport, assess clients needs, focus on clients strengths and work on their weaknesses by setting goals to:
Empower – financial well being.
Shape – physical well being.
Thrive – emotional and mental well being.
Through our Case Management Program, we also offer the following:
Cultural Sensitivity Training
Many refugees arrive never having encountered the American lifestyle, thus in most cases our Cultural Sensitivity training becomes mandatory. In this training we provide a safe and open zone to welcome our families to America while helping them understand the norms of their new environment. We discuss some things they may have already encountered, what they will encounter that seems strange or foreign, and give them a chance to discuss first reactions and ask questions.
We also conduct cultural awareness workshops for Case Workers at our partner organizations, specifically the resettlement agencies, so they can better serve the incoming Arabic-speaking refugees.
Personal Hygiene And Wellness Seminars
Because of differences in culture and life experience among refugees, SCN hosts a variety of workshops that provide recently arrived Syrians important knowledge to get them acclimated to their new lives. Workshops have included discussions about healthy eating, hygiene, road safety, what to do in emergencies, and many other topics that arise based on need.
Job Search And Placement Preparation And Transitioning
Our Case Managers will do a detailed assessment to find out the strengths, interests, and professional backgrounds of our clients. They will match our clients with available jobs and opportunities, after which we follow up with the employers to ensure the placement is going well and benefits their business.
On-the-job Work Conduct
In these workshops we discuss work conduct, understanding cultural nuances, and how to succeed and advance in American work culture. Refugees coming in to the United States are accustomed to a very different work environment; for example, the importance of making eye contact and shaking hands is something clearly understood by Americans, but not typical in Syrian culture. We help them navigate these situations so they can become productive and successful.
We also offer these support services:
- Assistance filling out, or following up on applications for DHS benefits (SNAP, TANF, WIC and Medicaid)
- Redetermination of DHS benefits
- Grievances and appeals
- Advice on eligibility
- Changing medical insurance providers
- Scheduling doctor’s appointments per client’s request
- Mental health referrals
- Domestic violence advocacy
- Traffic/Parking citations
- Accident reporting
- Immigration referrals
- Jury summons
- Tenant/Housing Issues
- School registration
- Conflict resolution program (social and academic issues)
- ESL for adults
- Assistance with job application completion
Family Well-Being Program
In 2017, we created a comprehensive Family Well-Being pilot program to address the emerging issue of domestic violence. . Through the Family Wellbeing Program, we empower our refugee women, men, teens and young children to be proactive about domestic violence, which affects the whole family; the program also builds awareness about safe teen behavior and bullying in a manner that is culturally sensitive. Our goal is to inform our female clients about their rights and the services available to them. We will work with partner organizations in the mental and physical health fields for referral services. Our trained staff mentors our female clients, empowers them to register for ESL and/or employment, and helps them create a safety plan in the case of domestic abuse.
Through our vast networks and grassroots efforts, we gained the trust within our community to become its own resource for providing emergency funds for life-threatening cases that demand immediate attention and for those that that are deemed less urgent. We have also developed referral services for an array of needs beyond our agency, ranging from physical medicine to mental health and beyond. See our list of Partners
Thinking holistically about what makes a healthy family, we also launched these initiatives to help families succeed:
Building on our track record of successful educational programs, we configured this as a series of impactful educational seminars, teaching women to speak for themselves and advocating for teen safety.
English As A Second Language
Learning English is a gateway to higher paying jobs, and can lead to attaining a GED and entering into a certificate program. Our clients eagerly look forward to mastering the English language so they can improve their job performance, so we now offer morning and evening sessions to help them grow their skills.
SafeSpaces / After School Program and Peer-to-Peer Mentorship (coming soon)
Fully equipped to handle after school and other programming for children, we are ready to expand on our programs and activities for them. Our new and innovative After School program, Safe Spaces, recently launched as a pilot program. With the Safe Space program, we not only look to assist students with homework and prepare students for success, but we address the challenges and opportunities that middle and high school children face at school in a manner that is culturally sensitive. It is not easy to deal with peer pressure, not to mention the change in cultural norms and habits, and we want to ease the stress that children and teens in that age group experience by creating that “safe space” for the students to open up. This will be important to flag issues that students are dealing with before small problems become big ones.