WSU selected to assist in refugee resettlement project

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A newly awarded grant will help broaden the scope of Washington State University’s coordination with nonprofit organizations that resettle refugee families across the Inland Northwest.

WSU, through its Office of International Programs, is among eight universities selected nationally for the Supporting Higher Education in Refugee Resettlement (SHERR) program funded by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit World Learning Inc. Grant recipients were awarded funds to expand innovative partnerships and broaden cooperation between universities and refugee resettlement agencies.

IP and International Rescue Commission (IRC), a nonprofit with an office located in Spokane, have built a unique relationship over the past year coordinating efforts to assist refugee families with wrap-around services that public institutions can help provide. IP partnered with IRC to engage nursing students in assisting refugees in Spokane with navigating the local healthcare system. The students also assisted in providing healthcare as part of their curriculum.

The SHERR grant will allow WSU’s involvement to grow and match refugee adults and children with interns to help navigate not just medical needs, but other vital services.

Building on the success of that pilot program, the SHERR grant will allow WSU’s involvement to grow and match refugee adults and children with interns to help navigate not just medical needs, but other vital services, said Steve Overfelt, Global Partnerships and Research Services, international engagement specialist.

Paul Whitney, interim vice president for International Programs, said “Our experience with the pilot program demonstrated not only the value to refugees, but also how much WSU students benefit from experience in working with people from different cultures.”

The nearly $47,000 grant will fund four interns, one in the summer and three for the 2024–25 school year, to work closely with IRC to help refugees speed their transition to becoming self-sufficient members of society.

Overfelt works closely with Kimmie Curry, International Rescue Commission’s community engagement and volunteer coordinator. Curry said the grant will allow her team to offer enhanced training so that interns can start working productively with the families as quickly as possible. Feedback from the students will allow the IRC and WSU to continually improve the training curriculum.

The grant runs through January 2025 with the hope that future funding will allow for expanding these kinds of partnerships to more of the WSU system.

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