Who We Are

African Refuge is a program of the International Trauma Studies Program (ITSP). We are a drop-in center that promotes and develops crucial linkages between the African community and social service providers In Staten Island. Through community outreach, information and referral services, family and youth support programs, we identify and serve the needs of refugees and immigrants.

The Community

Staten Island is home to thousands of African immigrants and refugees facing the challenges of making a home here in the New York Area. For many, resettlement means starting a new life - a career, a family, and becoming part of a new community, while still striving to hold on to values and previous ways of life and pass them on to their children.

Some refugees struggle to cope with memories of violence and the pain of losing friends and family members. Many of the children in the community have missed years of schooling due to the wars they have experienced in their home countries.

This is a community in transition. Sustained by the resilience and rich culture of the people, African Refuge seeks to provide an important link to the available resources and services in the community and beyond.

The Drop-In Center

African Refuge was founded in 2003, to assist people of this unique community in adjusting to life in New York by linking people to important services and social supports. Centrally located, the Center is the hub for the coordination of events, providing services and disseminating information. African Refuge is run by a dedicated group of skilled professionals and volunteers from the community.

Center Services:

• Information and Referral
• Community Bulletin Board
• Employment Assistance
• Resume Preparation
• Health Care/Insurance Resources
• Financial Counseling
• Legal Referrals
• Immigration Assistance
• Basic Computer Skill Classes
• Internet Access
• Youth & Family Support Groups
• Community Meeting Center

Outreach & Education Program

African Refuge promotes awareness on important issues affecting the West African population on Staten Island by hosting monthly educational forums, open-houses for employment opportunities, computer classes, linkages to health care, and providing meeting space for many community groups.

Coalition Building

African Refuge has been instrumental in organizing the Consortium of African Community Service Providers (CACSP) in Staten Island. The goal is to promote collaboration among the local social service resources to better assist the community.

what's new: The Drop-In Center

The Drop-In Center is the keystone of the Staten Island African Community Resilience Project, serving as an important hub of activities for people in the community. Since the beginning of 2006, the Center has had over 1500 visits by community members for a variety of services, training, educational events and information on job related issues, entitlement programs and referrals to outside agencies. The Center provides space for meetings, a comfortable place for people to congregate, computers with access to the internet, a fax machine, a TV and a bulletin board, all free for community use.

The Center’s volunteers assist people with many types of requests such as resume writing, filling out job applications, financial counseling, information on HIV/AIDS, referrals to outside social services, accompaniment to entitlement appointments, registration for the green card lottery and numerous other supportive services.

The Center has initiated monthly educational seminars and open houses to bring information on job placements, micro-enterprise opportunities, affordable health care programs, legal assistance and other important issues of concern to members of the community.

Volunteers and staff also engage in an active outreach campaign, designed to let people in the community know about African Refuge, its services and other vital issues of importance to immigrants and refugees in Staten Island. The Center recently created a website and a brochure for distribution. Often attending local church services on the weekends, one of the most effective means of reaching people in this culture, and other local meetings, the volunteers and staff continuously work to promote awareness about African Refuge and its services. This outreach also helps to create a dialogue with community members so that the needs and input of community voices often serves to direct the goals and programming of the Center.

Volunteer Program

As awareness of the Center’s existence has grown, the Center has initiated a new, volunteer recruitment program to increase the number of people available to provide services and to more actively engage members of the community in the work of African Refuge. Currently, we have 6 volunteers in the Center. The program is designed to train volunteers not only in general office support but also as information specialists in important entitlement programs critical for our participants.

Community Advisory Board

African Refuge has recently mobilized a Community Advisory Board that includes prominent leaders from social service agencies, faith-based institutions, tribal associations and businesses in the community. The function of the fifteen-person Board is to increase community involvement and cultural representation in directing the goals of the Center, provide expert advice and technical support, fundraising, and building the institutional capacity of African Refuge.

Individual and Family Psychosocial Services

The Drop-In Center continues to provide family and psychosocial supports including employment assistance, resume preparation, basic computer skills classes, health care/insurance resources, immigration assistance, legal referrals, financial counseling, Internet access, maintenance of a community bulletin board, and youth and family support groups. Through our relationship with New York University and Columbia University Schools of Social Work, social work interns have been conducting case management and counseling services with clients coming into the Center, the majority having endured war, torture and other forms of political violence.

Family and Youth Advocacy Program

The Family Advocacy and Support Project was established to engage families in discussions about relevant issues and experiences critical to the African community; and to develop specific advocacy projects to support families, parents and children in the community. This project was an outgrowth of an early research study focused on school and family outreach, involving five schools where the majority of African refugee youth are enrolled. The research focused on parent concerns about their children and how to create a closer collaboration between school staff and parents. The goal of the group is to empower members to become advocates on issues such as education, housing, and benefit entitlements. The group meets every other Sunday at the Center for discussion and works to create sustainable support for effective parenting skills and recognition of children’s difficulties in adjusting to their environments. Currently, the group has resolved to advocate for stronger collaboration between parents and the schools and the establishment of an after school program for children in the Parkhill area.

Computer Literacy Training Course

Early this year, African Refuge initiated a formal computer literacy course at the Drop-In Center to train people in basic computer skills. The Course has been developed as a friendly introduction to the world of computers. Trainees are provided with instruction on computer basics including components of the computer, keyboarding basics, using the computer mouse, creating and printing simple documents and introduction to Internet and basic email functions. The Center has enrolled 5 students in its first course and is run by a volunteer from the community. African Refuge is expecting to receive a donation of ten (10) computers to assist the development of this Course.

Community Newsletter

As part of our outreach effort, the Center is developing a community newsletter to inform people about services and activities at African Refuge, outside community affairs and prominent events, about issues of importance to the refugee and immigrant community, and news stories of interest from Africa. Discussion is underway about developing a radio station as part of African Refuge’s effort to reach out to a significant part of the community that is illiterate or does not traditionally access information through written media.

African Refuge Drop-In Center Mural Project

The Mural Project is the actual creation of a painted wall mural for inside the Drop-In Center. Engaging volunteers from the community, the project is designed is to build trust, awareness and understanding. The goal is not just the mural itself but also the process of drawing the community together across generations, gender and different cultures to reflect pre- and post-settlement experiences in the United States. People will have the opportunity to express their thoughts, emotions, cultural pride, struggles and experiences during the creation of the mural. The symbolism of placing all the represented experiences into the mural will model bringing cohesiveness to the community through visual arts. This is a class project of one of the student from the ITSP Certificate Training Course.

Coming Home: Connecting U.S. Refugees with the Old Country

Given the complex and often neglected needs of elder refugees, African Refuge has developed an arts initiative aimed at improving the psychosocial well being of senior Liberians living in the community. Coming Home uses photography and film to connect older Liberians here in Staten Island with friends and family at home. A group of elders have come together to create messages in film for one of our project volunteers to carry to friends and family in Liberia. Return responses will be brought back to the elders in the Staten Island community. The Project will culminate in a multimedia exhibit that will enhance social support for elders in the community, address cultural values, raise public awareness and attract attention to the physical and mental health needs of elders in the community.

Consortium of African Community Service Providers (CACSP)

African Refuge (AR) played an instrumental role in the formation of the Consortium of African Community Service Providers (CACSP) and continues to take a leading role in its operation and development. The Consortium was started in 2003 by organizations serving the African refugee and immigrant community in Staten Island to help find answers to the growing needs of immigrants, refugees and asylees. The mission of the Consortium is to build a cohesive system of service delivery that promotes individual and family support and helps people acculturate into the surrounding community. The Consortium facilitates communication between service providers, schools and communities providing a forum to discuss issues affecting the community. It works to build opportunities for positive youth development through neighborhoods, schools, parks, and religious facilities, expand youth leadership and opportunities to serve as problem solvers. It encourages collaboration between educators and human service providers to strengthen connections between the home, school, and community; and it works to establish common goals, objectives and core measures to enhance accountability and gaps in services. The Consortium now has a membership of over 15 community-based organizations and churches and over 12 services providers and public agencies.

Community Crime/Drug Prevention Outreach

With the increase in drug problems and crime in the Parkhill area, African Refuge has undertaken an initiative to outreach to the local police precinct community affairs officer and the housing police. African Refuge has also initiated a discussion on this issue with members of the Consortium. The outcome will be to organize meetings between community members, local business owners and the police to advocate for increased police involvement, to reestablish a tenant association in the Parkhill Housing project where African Refuge is located, to discuss improving security, and to reduce the incidence of drugs and crime in the area, particularly with the youth.

Contact Info:

African Refuge
185 Parkhill Avenue Ste. LB
Staten Island, NY 10304
Phone: 718.701.4055
Fax: 718.701.4443
Email: resilience20010@yahoo.com

International Trauma Studies Program
Phone: 212.691.6499
Email: info@itspnyc.org
Web: www.itspnyc.org