In January 2017, USCRI Albany was awarded three years of funding to assist senior refugees in the Albany, New York community and for the last year, this has truly come to fruition. “The main idea is to connect refugees with already-existing services,” said Jake Slutzky, program coordinator at USCRI-Albany.
This program, Services to Older Refugees, helps refugees like 64-year-old Raaida Aldabass. When Raaida came to the United States from Syria one year ago, she cried everyday for the country that she missed. She felt isolated, unable to communicate with her new neighbors and new community. “But now it is better, she is happy because she’s learning the language,” Rana Safeih, Aldabass’ daughter, says. And this is in thanks to Services to Older Refugees.
The program is broken up into two categories: community outreach and education, and intensive case management. So far, USCRI has provided nearly 30 older refugees extensive assistance in areas such as housing, medical care, legal assistance and social integration.
“For medical, with younger clients you can give them a ride to a doctor’s appointments and they can handle the rest,” Slutzky said. “But for the seniors, we need volunteers that go with them to the waiting room, provide patient advocacy and make sure they’re able to access the great benefits they have.”
The program also organizes workshops for older refugees to learn topics like computer literacy, housing, and cancer awareness. However, the real goal of this program is to help older refugees, like Raaida, connect with the people in their community.
“Yes, this identifies services for these senior refugees,” said USCRI-Albany Director Jill Peckenpaugh. “But it goes both ways, so people of the community that have been aware of refugees, but are happy to meet and experience that diversity, can become volunteers.”
The grant and resulting program has helped these senior refugees to be more independent, more confident, and ultimately integrate into their community more comfortably.
To read more about the program, check out the TimesUnion article here.
USCRI Albany is always looking for volunteers. If you are interested, learn more about opportunities here.