Roesch Lends Voice to Refugee Resettlement; CSSMV CEO Participated in U.S. Judiciary Committee
by Eileen Connelly, OSU
Bernice Gervais arrived in the U.S. in early 2019, fleeing from war and violence in her native Burundi and hoping for a new, better life. Her mother and siblings soon joined her in Dayton with help from Catholic Social Services of the Miami Valley’s (CSSMV) refugee resettlement program. Gervais, who had been attending nursing school in Burundi, now works as home health care aid and is enrolled in a State Tested Nursing Assistant (STNA) training program.
“There have been some challenges, but life is good here, and we’re very grateful,” Gervais said.
Her experience, along with those of other refugees assisted by CSSMV, was on CEO Laura Roesch’s mind when she participated in a virtual Advocacy Meeting with members of the U.S. Judiciary Committee in September. Organized by Refugee Council USA, the event provided the opportunity for Roesch and representatives from other refugee resettlement programs to meet with elected officials.
“The number is at all time low,” Roesch said, explaining the current number of refugees in the U.S.
Resettlement agencies are following all CDC health protocols to ensure the safety of all during COVID-19 and communities are ready and willing to welcome more refugees, Roesch emphasized.
“We appreciate the people who are making the decisions taking the time to listen to real information about refugee work and why it matters. We know as a community that we have the capacity to serve more refugees than have been arriving,” Roesch said.
“This is a humanitarian issue and one Catholics should be concerned about,” she added, noting that United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) defines a refugee as “any person who is unable to return to their home country out of a well-founded fear of persecution because of their race, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group.
Cuts to resettlement have had a significant impact on refugees in harm’s way and families awaiting reunification that have already been approved for admission, but are now facing uncertain futures. Employers across the country who rely on refugee workers and communities, including Dayton, who have long welcomed refugees have also been affected.
Refugees like Gervais are serving their local communities as part of the COVID-19 response. According to statistics from Refugee Council USA, refugees are working on the frontlines and in essential jobs, including 176,000 employed in health care and 175,000 in the food supply chain.
As an affiliate of Catholic Charities USA and the USCCB, CSSMV’s refugee resettlement program is the portal for services in the Dayton area. Newly arriving refugees are assisted with placement in initial furnished housing, receive a cultural orientation overview, employment assistance and are connected with other community resources, such as language classes and medical services.
“This is the start of a brand-new life for the arriving refugees,” Roesch said. “The root of our program is self-sufficiency. True resettlement can take years, but as the refugees become settled, everything else falls into place and they continue to progress. They are employed, pay taxes, eventually buy homes and become contributing members of the community.”
This article appeared in the November edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary subscription, click here.