If you were to momentarily close your eyes at Freedom House Detroit and focus solely on the sounds around you, this is what you might hear – both booming and lighthearted laughter, a happy exchange of accented words, kitchen clattering of a meal soon to be shared, the frenzied little footsteps of children playing, and some form of jubilant, upbeat music playing softly in the background of it all. The sounds of a happy home, shared by asylum-seekers from around the world. Despite this bright and cheerful picture, the residents at Freedom House have had a long and difficult journey to find their refuge here.
Asylum-seekers at Freedom House came from 18 different countries in the year 2018, with the majority coming from African countries. They come to Freedom House Detroit seeking safety and asylum from oppressive and life-threatening circumstances back in their home countries. They have survived extremely emotionally and physically taxing circumstances and have made the journey to the U.S. in search of refuge, support and a new home that allows them to live free from cruelty or injustice. Many come with their families, and many possess a wide range of skills from their past jobs and experiences in their previous lives.
Freedom House Detroit, a 501c3 non-profit, is a temporary home for indigent survivors of persecution from around the world who are seeking asylum in the United States and Canada. Beaumont Hospital (Grosse Pointe location) has partnered with Freedom House to provide volunteerism opportunities at the hospital for refugees who qualify, sparking a platform for regained community, support and skills-building in their new home.
For my Challenge Detroit Impact Project, I partnered with these two organizations to capture and promote this mutually beneficial volunteer program. Through a series of interviews with Beaumont staff, Freedom House staff and the asylum-seekers/volunteers themselves, it was easy to see the positive impact that this program has had on both sides. These were outlined in my deliverables, which included a promotional program pamphlet and a toolkit for implementing the program at different Beaumont locations and/or organizations.
Benefits for the Volunteers:
o Stress relief & healing from experienced trauma
o Integration & guidance into a new community
o Improved mental and emotional wellbeing
o Improved autonomy and increased confidence
o Job skills experience in the U.S. and reputable references
o Access to helpful information and an environment for knowledge sharing
o A supportive network of co-workers and allies
o Improved English language skills
o A way to give back to their new community
o The potential to apply for employment at Beaumont once legal employment authorization has been granted
o Hope for the future!
Benefits for Beaumont Staff and Clients:
o Acquaintance & understanding of individuals from a different country, background & culture
o Increased diversity in educational backgrounds & point of view in the workplace
o Volunteers with an extremely hard work ethic & high motivation to learn & help others
I truly found purpose and inspiration in the people and work involved in this impact project and plan to continue to stay connected with those I worked on in the hopes of further advancing the volunteer program and its impact. It was a wonderful way to finish up my fellowship year with Challenge Detroit and I am grateful for this and all of the opportunities the fellowship has granted me with throughout the past year.