Denise Ogilvie from Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas knows what refugees face when they are starting over their lives. The organization’s refugee and immigration services, which is qualified through the State Department, provides refugee resettlement and support.
Ogilvie explained that their team is given 24 hours notice when a new refugee family will be arriving. Most refugees have been in a camp for 10 or more years. “Families come here with children that were born in a camp and are now college age. The children have never lived anywhere else.”
The Catholic Charities team meets the families at the airport and takes them to an apartment outfitted with all the basics they will need to start their new life.
With funding from the State Department, Catholic Charities works together with the families for six months to find employment and help them get settled. Thanks to the New Roots for Refugees program, support no longer ends there. New Roots builds on the strengths and experience that the refugees already possess, helping them start their own small farm businesses growing and selling vegetables. This means that refugee families can continue to support themselves and their families with the agricultural skills they gained in their native country.
“For many, this was their sole source of income in their original country. With a plot to farm, they now grow food they may not have eaten before.” The program also provides resources on how to market the produce that is grown and how to manage their finance and business.
The programs current plot in Juniper Gardens in KC Kansas provides everyone in the program with a one acre plot. Produce is sold in 27 farmers markets and restaurants. The program lasts for four years. Currently 85 percent of participants purchase a small plot of land to keep farming after completing the program.
“We try to not only help people in the middle of crisis,” said Ogilvie. “We believe in order to give dignity we need to help people stand on their own two feet so they are self sufficient.”