April 2018 Newsletter

In this issue:

The Changing Face of Refugee Resettlement in Madison:
  • Potential large increase in the number of refugees coming
  • Jewish Social Services is piloting a new early-resettlement model
  • Greater focus on longer term refugees
  • Open Doors is expanding programs
  • Community response to plight of refugees has faded

  • Run for Refugees - April 21
  • On Exile: Film Screening and Community Conversation - April 28
  • Book Launch and Tibetan Culture Evening - April 28
  • Third Annual Community Picnic - June 24
  • Lutheran Social Services Corner

"3rd Wednesday" General Meeting
April 18,7:00-8:30
Beth Israel Center
1406 Mound St, Madison WI 53711

Want to get involved?
Come and learn how you can!
The changing face of refugee resettlement in Madison

Several recent developments will significantly affect the number of refugees coming to Madison, the populations of refugees served by Open Doors, and the type of services Open Doors provides.  This newsletter explores five of those developments in an unusually dense, informative format.  There's a lot of material here if you want to know about trending issues.
1. The possible number of refugees coming to Madison this year fist dropped, then doubled

Initially, Lutheran Social Services (LSS) and Jewish Social Services (JSS) each contracted with the U.S. State Department to take in up to 50 refugees during the current fiscal year (October 2017 - September 2018), down from a combined total of 160 last year. But, as of the end of March, the two agencies had received only 25 refugees between them. Nationally, the number of arriving refugees has dropped to its lowest level in nearly 40 years. 

This winter, the State Department decided to eliminate smaller offices around the country that had agreed to take in fewer than 100 refugees. In response, LSS and JSS each amended their contracts and agreed to take in up to 100 each.  Unofficially, nobody expects to see 200 refugees here this year, but refugees who would have gone to some of the smaller offices will now go elsewhere, and some of them will likely come here. 
2.  JSS is piloting a new early-resettlement model

Over the last 18 months, Open Doors has helped to set up over a dozen apartments for JSS arrivals, providing furniture and household items, usually renting the truck, and enlisting many of the volunteers involved. 
Primarily citing concerns of volunteer burnout, JSS is piloting a new strategy to set up apartments, similar to that of LSS. Under a new program called Community Action for Refugee Arrival (CARA), JSS is contracting primarily with faith-based organizations to gather furniture and household goods, to set up the apartment, and to provide optional volunteer support and services to refugee families for the first six months.

On the positive side, CARA will allow for a number of other organizations to get involved in refugee resettlement, and it’ll also address the JSS burnout concerns.  However, it also has the potential to reduce the level of Open Doors involvement to a point where it’s no longer sustainable.  For our process to work, we need to have a regular flow of donated goods into storage and out to refugee apartments.  We can’t operate on an intermittent basis, alternately soliciting and rejecting offers of donations and volunteers.  Still, as we have done occasionally with LSS, there is potential for Open Doors to help a CARA team or to set up an apartment in lieu of a CARA team.  It’s too early to tell how successful CARA will be and thus what impact it will have on Open Doors activities, but they go hand in hand.  Regardless, we will continue to partner with JSS and LSS for the benefit of the refugee population in Madison.
3.  We're putting greater focus on supporting longer-term refugees

Even before JSS launched CARA, Open Doors has been looking to connect with refugees who’ve been here beyond the initial six to nine months of intensive, refugee resettlement activities.

Connecting with refugees isn’t easy, even for a refugee support organization. For privacy and security reasons, LSS and JSS can’t give out any information about refugees to anyone, unless they've been vetted by the agency and operate through them. Our work with JSS and their clients has enabled us to connect with and serve these clients outside of JSS.  We’ve also gotten to know and work with many recent LSS clients, largely through the informal refugee word-of-mouth network.

Although LSS and JSS can’t give us refugee information, they can pass along information about Open Doors to refugees, who then in turn can contact us. Both organizations have lately agreed to give information about our organization and programs to the client families they are working with. For that purpose, we’ve developed a refugee-oriented flier written in four languages (French, Arabic, Nepali and English), telling refugees about the programs and services we offer and inviting them to contact us.

In addition to contacting their existing clients, JSS and LSS have also offered to provide this same informational packet about Open Doors to new families as they arrive.

In the process of getting translations, we’ve also connected and have begun to meet with the large Bhutanese community (over 600 people), most of whom came here between 2009-2015.  Many still don’t speak English.
4.  Open Doors is expanding our programs.

Last winter, we launched a skill-building program, which can pay up to half the cost for training, courses, certification to help refugees become more self-sufficient.  To date, several women have used this program to take Behind-the-Wheel classes.
Our newest initiative is our gardening program. We agree to pay most of the costs to provide refugee families with a community garden plot, seeds, plants and tools.
Our volunteers have offered to help plant and maintain gardens, and to teach prospective new gardeners how to garden around here. Because the Bhutanese are an agricultural community, we expect that a number of them will participate in this program.

We have included information about these programs in the Open Doors packets that will be mailed to refugees by the agencies.
5.  The community response to the plight of refugees has faded

Early in the Trump presidency, the conflict in Syria and Trump’s attempts to ban Muslim refugees kept the plight of refugees in the public eye and motivated people to seek ways to help.  But those numbers have dropped off considerably.
Comparing the first quarter of 2017 with the first quarter of this year, the number of additional people who joined our mailing list in those two quarters dropped from 256 to 93 respectively, the number who signed up to help dropped from 35 to 21, and donations to Open Doors dropped from $7,655 (plus a $10,000 grant from the Freedom from Religion Foundation) to $3,810.
Beyond these numbers, many folks who sign up to help, perhaps even funding their own background check, never answer the siren call to help when it comes.  Like JSS, we seem to fall back on the same small contingent of dedicated and committed volunteers, and volunteer burnout is also an issue for Open Doors.  Please hear this as a plea for help and a call to action.  If you have offered to help and you hear from your team leader, please consider pitching in. 

Run for Refugees
Saturday, April 21, 2018
12:00 to 2:30 PM
The United Nations Association-Dane County Chapter in collaboration with Open Doors for Refugees will be hosting its second 5K Walk/Run. All proceeds will be donated to The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee's Office serving Central Africa and the African Great Lakes Region.

Registration will be begin at 12pm Natatorium 2000 Observatory Dr.

Registration fees: $15 for students, and $25 for non-students. T-shirts are included with registration. 

Children and pets are welcomed!
Jesus Del Toro
United Nations Association Dane County Chapter & Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity Inc.
Register here:
This event is organized in partnership with Open Doors for Refugees
Summer Picnic...
...Fun in the Sun
The third Open Annual Community Picnic will be on Sunday, June 24, noon to 4:00 at the Olin Park Shelter, and preparations for it are underway! 
Last year about 400 people joined in for an incredible international potluck, great entertainment, wonderful conversations and nonstop games and activities for the kids.  We're planning similar activities and gearing up for a similar turnout this year.  

We need help!  The Events Team is seeking volunteers to help with:
  • Coordinating food and beverage donations
  • Organizing kids’ activities and games
  • Finding groups to provide musical and other entertainment 
  • Help setup, run and cleanup on the day of the event.
If you’d like to help in any way, please email  Thanks!
Lutheran Social Services Corner
(Starting this month, Lutheran Social Services and Jewish Social Services will have a "corner" in the newsletter if they want it.  This month JSS was not able to respond)
From Mary Flynn, LSS Refugee Resettlement Program Manager:

In the past year, LSS has seen the number of refugees coming to Madison decrease significantly.  However, the need for engaged volunteers willing to join LSS’ Volunteer Program remains strong. If you’d like to learn about LSS’s refugee resettlement program and how you can be part of this humanitarian mandate, please join us for a Volunteer Information Meeting on Monday, April 23, 2018, from 5:30-6:30 pm at the Catholic Multicultural Center, 1862 Beld Street, Madison WI 53713  Please enter through Beld Street doors only.  You will learn what Core Services are, how resettlement agencies provide continuing support to refugees after the initial three-month resettlement period, and the importance of welcoming communities like Madison.  Learn how you can get involved and create meaningful support for refugees. Your questions are welcome as well!  
Please note, here are links to all previous newsletters 

Contact Us:










Mailing Address

Open Doors for Refugees

1213 N Sherman Ave # 104
Madison, WI 53704


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