I’m supposed to be working on something entirely unrelated to refugees today, but I can’t get my mind off the dismal development meeting I took part in last night. Needless to say, times are not good, and there is no end in sight for our funding problems. Right now, the field office is trying to plan a huge event to raise money to compensate for our budget shortfall in core program areas and provide emergency cash assistance to at-risk clients DSS cannot help or cannot help fast enough.
I have been arguing that the amount of time we will need to invest in planning this event won’t be worth the money we’ll raise even if it goes off without a hitch, which is unlikely to begin with, especially in our declining economy. I have argued that we, at the field office, should focus instead on grantwriting, on securing multi-year funding from small foundations for our locality-specific programs and lobbying the head office to raise more “big money” for our core service areas, emergency assistance to clients, and overhead.
It should not fall on field offices to raise the money they need to operate standard resettlement programs or provide emergency cash assistance. In any case, we simply do not have the capacity.
On the other hand, head offices can leverage national political connections, pull off successful fundraisingcampaigns, and acquire large grants.
A couple of days ago, I wrote about how I was going to start the application for a grant to expand job-development and education programming at the field office. I’ve now been told to hold off, that we need to put our energy into event-based local fundraising for this emergency fund. That even if our grant for the refugee health program comes through, we might not be able to accept it, because we’re facing very serious staffing and office space problems as well. And, as usual, the head office has basically told us to suck it up and find a way.
I’m starting to think that the wrong person will stumble across this blog one day, and that my criticisms of head offices will cost me a job. I’d like to think that won’t happen, that constructive criticism won’t be seen as disloyalty, but I do worry.
Refugee resettlement is an absolutely essential part of the humanitarian universe –the other end of the work that is done in refugee camps. Resettlement workers help rebuild shattered lives and make second chances possible for people for whom going home is not an option. Yet, there are many problems with the current resettlement system in the United States, and those problems seem to be multiplying by the day. For now at least, I’m going to keep writing, because resettlement workers need to take back the discourse on refugee resettlement reform. Resigned silence gets us nowhere, and hurts our clients.
On a creepy and possibly unrelated note, I can’t shake this general feeling of bad things bearing down, just out of sight.
But the show must go on. And so it will. I’ll start conducting interviews for the refugee resettlement film in the next few weeks.