Rick Franklin, Joyce Epolito, Jenn Bricker, Aaron Sangha and Leilah Rampa

Exodus World Service

Grant Awarded: $25,000

Exodus World Service equips local volunteers with information and training and then links them directly with refugee families newly arrived in the Chicago metropolitan area.

The “Chicago Welcomes You” book will aid Exodus in their care for refugees. Finding a way to assist the 1000 plus Burmese refugees currently living in Chicago in their acclimation to city life is a constant challenge. Most of the refugees have no understanding of English or American customs and few resources to help them learn. Although volunteers work hard to bridge the cultures, the reality of time constraints forces refugees to cope with many daily struggles on their own. This book and accompanying conversation cards will be a lifeline to help these people understand their new home.

Exodus World Service and partner agencies in the Chicago area will use "Chicago Welcomes You" as a tool to help these refugees settle in a new land.

The multilingual book will be distributed to new arrivals in the Welcome to America! pack. Refugees will be able to use the book as a reference to the many questions that arise through life in the city. Moments of frustration and even paralysis when English speaking contacts are unavailable will be waylaid as they open the book and see their own language paired with English and images to connect the dots. This will further their journey toward self-sufficiency.

The conversation starter cards will be used by volunteers in the New Neighbor program to educate and develop relationships with those they are serving. They will function as a starting point by which to strengthen the bond and understanding between the volunteers and refugees, and also help direct the conversation to things that will clarify the world around them.

“Chicago Welcomes You” will impact the future of Burmese refugees in Chicago and serve as a model for similar projects within other refugee groups.