How Do Caseworkers Welcome Our New Neighbors?
Sunita Acharya, a Case Worker at Refugee Services of Fort Worth, shares her story of how she helps clients engage with their new community. 9/9/2016
One of the first people to greet refugees upon their arrival in Texas is their caseworker. Refugee Services of Texas caseworkers provide direct support to families to help them maneuver public services and American culture for the first three to six months they are in Texas. Together with an interpreter and sometimes a few volunteers, caseworkers are often there to pick up their clients at the airport and transport them to their new home.
Sunita Acharya has been a caseworker in the Fort Worth office since 2012. She originally moved to the USA in 2002 from Nepal and experienced firsthand how it feels to be welcomed to an unfamiliar country. After working with Catholic Charities as an interpreter for Bhutanese refugees, Sunita wanted to do even more as a volunteer for Refugee Services of Texas. Her friend Bimala, also a caseworker at RST, served as a link for Sunita to join RST.
One of the primary goals outlined for refugees resettled in the US is to find full-time employment within six months of arrival. “My favorite part is when clients start working and they are happy,” Sunita says. One of Sunita’s clients, who arrived in Fort Worth a year ago, has started working two jobs and has bought a car. Car ownership is a milestone for refugees in their progress towards self-sufficiency, and seeing her client’s achievement fills Sunita with pride. She hopes her clients find work quickly, but she also wants them to see her as more than just a caseworker; through respecting her clients and treating them like family, she is able to build tremendous trust and openness.
Sometimes language can be a barrier, but more often than not caseworkers work through this with assistance either from hired interpreters or from English speaking clients, as is often the case for Sunita. She also receives help from loyal volunteers whom she can call on when there may be emergencies, such as a family needing groceries or a ride to a job interview or doctor's appointment. Volunteers provide vital support in responding to these needs when case managers are engaged with other clients.
Volunteers do not just provide emergency assistance though. Sunita told us that there is a lot that refugee clients do not know, even while assigned to a caseworker. “Community members help them to interact with other places. That’s a big help,” she explains. While caseworkers provide assistance with things like social security applications, health care appointments, and school enrollments, community members can fill in the blanks by helping refugees learn how the post office works, how to get to a grocery store, how to budget, and how to buy over-the-counter medicine.
In their role as an added resource, volunteers and community members provide an invaluable service to caseworkers as well as refugees. Caseworkers are the backbone of support during a refugee family’s first few months in Texas, and many go above and beyond for their clients. With the support of volunteers and community members, caseworkers lead the way in welcoming and empowering refugees to thrive.
This North Texas Giving Day, you can show refugees that you welcome them to the North Texas neighborhood by sharing their story and helping support our essential services.
Visit our profile at https://northtexasgivingday.org/npo/refugee-services-of-texas to learn more about how you can help, and check out Virginia's favorite recipe for welcoming new neighbors!