World Relief-Chicago (WR-C)
Successful integration of refugee families in the U.S. is often tied to their children's academic success. Refugee children are expected to do well in school, learn English quickly, and contribute to the family's successful adjustment. This focus makes the services provided through WR-C for children ages 0-18 vital. Many of WR-C's current refugee children have received minimal, if any, formal education in a refugee camp, resulting in children who are far behind their grade level and need extra attention to catch up and succeed academically. The programs of WR-C aim to build upon community strengths to help families succeed. Pambazuka is a Swahili term used to symbolize the dawning of a new day or light. The project's name acknowledges that refugee families bring great strengths and hope for their futures, and greatly add to the wonderful diversity of the Chicago community. WR-C's Pambazuka Project has two programs that support and facilitate refugee parents' involvement in their children's education: a family literacy program and the youth program. While each program has its own goals and activities, these WR-C programs work closely together to provide comprehensive services for refugee families with children. The two programs are housed in WR-C's Education and Youth Services Departments, allowing expertise from both fields to inform program practices.
Family Literacy Program Goals
Youth Program Goals
Family Literacy Program: While parents attend intensive adult ESL (English as a Second Language) classes at World Relief (Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.), their children ages 1-5 attend the early childhood education program, which includes age appropriate pre-literacy activities as well as art and play therapy. Once a week, parents attend family literacy activities instead of regular English classes. This includes a parenting group, parent-and-child together activities, and trips to the local branch of the Chicago Public Library. Once per quarter, the parents and children also take an educational field trip within the Chicago area.
Youth Program: This program provides comprehensive and individualized case management services for school aged children. WR-C staff completes an individualized education assessment and plan for all newly-arrived refugee children. Once children have completed all necessary medical screenings, WR-C staff assists families with the school enrollment procedures. After children are enrolled in school, WR-C provides supportive services to both families and school to aide in the transition process. WR-C provides twice weekly after-school programming, focusing on developing academic and social skills in a safe and nurturing environment. Monthly fieldtrips to cultural and educational establishments give parents and children the opportunity to explore the new community in which they now live.
WR-C serves over 80 refugee children in grades K-12 in over 25 Chicago Public Schools each year. In addition, approximately 30 refugee and immigrant parents with children ages 1-5 are served through the Family Literacy program each year. Populations served include: Iraqi, Bhutanese, Burmese, Eritrean and Hispanic.
The Family Literacy Program is made possible through a grant awarded by the Illinois State Library, a Division of the Office of the Secretary of State, using state funds designated for literacy. Funding also comes through the Illinois Community College Board. The Youth Program is primarily funded through the Refugee Children School Impact Grant.
Program Staffing: Early Childhood Education Instructor/Coordinator, Sr. Youth Services Coordinator/Children's Social Worker, Director of Education, Adult ESL Instructors (4), and Early Childhood Education Assistant
Staff Training: WR-C Social Workers and ESL Instructors are required to attend professional workshops each year to maintain licensure and credentials. Staff members are also encouraged to attend local, regional, and state conferences, as the National Refugee and Immigrant Conference held in Chicago. In addition, ESL Instructors attend workshops put on by Literacy Works Chicago and the Adult Learning Resource Center. Lastly, the Sr. Youth Services Coordinator/Children's Social Worker facilitates workshops for teachers in Chicago Public Schools.
All written materials, such as surveys, are translated into parents' primary languages as often as possible to ensure accurate feedback. Volunteers and staff members provide the translation.
Parenting education: At the end of each group session, each parent shares what he or she learned and writes it in his or her journal. Parents complete quarterly surveys about parenting classes.
Parent-and-Child Together activities: Program staff observes parents and children during activities. Parents complete quarterly surveys about Parent-Child activities.
Library: Staff keeps weekly records on attendance, topics covered, and methodology used. Parents complete library journals to record what books they checked out from the library to read with their children. Parents complete quarterly survey about library activities.
Early Childhood Education: The Early Childhood Education Coordinator uses a developmental skills checklist to track children's progress. Samples of the children's work are kept in their files.
From February 3, 2011- August 31, 2011, program outcomes included:
The majority of the family literacy activities meet on-site. There are three adult ESL classrooms, an early childhood classroom, and a conference room that is used for the parenting groups. The library is located less than a mile from the WR-C office.
Mike Moline, Director of Education
The Pambazuka Project began in 1999 (with the Family Literacy program beginning in 2004); it is still operating year round as of October 2011.