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Each year, Massachusetts becomes home to 2,400 individuals through the state’s Refugee Resettlement Program administered by the Office for Refugees and Immigrants (ORI).

Most, like Abdulmohsin (Mike) who immigrated to Massachusetts from Iraq in 2013, come with little to no knowledge of American culture or customs but are eager to build a life for themselves. ORI’s mission is to promote the full participation of refugees and immigrants as self-sufficient individuals and families in the economic, social, and civic life. This is done through an established network of partners and programs that individuals can rely upon as they strive to become self-sufficient.

“ORI’s mission is to promote the full participation of refugees and immigrants as self-sufficient individuals and families in the economic, social, and civic life of Massachusetts.”

During fiscal year 2015, 1,774 new refugees and 331 newcomers were served by the Massachusetts Resettlement Program. They hailed from over 25 countries with more than half from Iraq, Somalia, and Bhutan.

After Abdulmohsin was assigned to a resettlement agency he was referred to an agency for employment services. Abdulmohsin (Mike) found a job with Medtronic in their Danvers location, a biomedical engineering company through the help of his caseworker and employment specialist.

“The company I work for is very important because I feel like I am saving people,” said Abdulmohsin (Mike). “I work with a focus because quality is very important at Medtronic.”

And many individuals who obtain jobs stay employed.

The employment retention rate for individuals who accessed ORI’s provider networks, averaged at 86 percent over the past two years, according to ORI’s 2015 Annual Report. Seventy percent of ORI’s active caseload of refugees and new individuals were hired for jobs where they made more than minimum wage.

Claude came from the Dominican Republic of the Congo with his wife and son in 2014 and was so appreciative of services provided to help make his resettlement easier, Claude almost immediately started giving back by volunteering at a refugee resettlement agency twice a week. He also earned a UMass Memorial scholarship for a medical interpretation program at the UMass Medical School.

“It’s a foundation for my life,” said Claude who speaks English, French and four other African languages and works as a regional Community Health Worker in Worcester. “I got more friends and I learned so much.”

The transition is not easy but there are services in place to ease the burden.

To make a foreign experience a little more familiar, ORI now provides a welcoming kit to all newcomers which includes a letter signed by Governor Baker, Lieutenant Governor Polito, and the Executive Office of Health and Human Services Secretary Marylou Sudders. The kit also includes essential information about local services available in multiple languages.

Claude’s advice to other newcomers?

“Work with the agencies, and get an education,” said Claude. “There are barriers in education and skills in a new country, you have to get educated.”

For more information about ORI’s programs and initiatives, read ORI’s full 2015 Annual Report here:
http://www.mass.gov/eohhs/docs/ori/ori-annual-report.pdf

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