In 2011, IRIS’ Board development efforts have brought increased enthusiasm and energy to the agency. In addition to doubling the number and diversifying the composition of its members, the board created committees—including Development, Nominating, and Finance—which met at least ten times. Several board members help plan IRIS’ public events, while others represent IRIS at local meetings.
Increased Private Donations
IRIS increased private donations 14% over last year, not including income from special events. In 2011, 211 new donors contributed to IRIS and 46 previous donors increased their annual donation. IRIS recognizes the need to continue increasing unrestricted donations, in the face of increased costs and the pressures of the recession; this is one of the most important goals of the current strategic plan.
Increased Public Awareness
In 2011 IRIS received an all-time high number of invitations to make presentations about refugees. Although there is more work to be done in this area, it is safe to say that IRIS is gradually becoming a “household name” in greater New Haven. IRIS continued its efforts to raise awareness and educate the public about refugee resettlement. Through 43 presentations, including a variety of speaking engagements and large public events, IRIS reached more than 2,200 people.
Educate the public about the refugee experience, and resettlement in New Haven.
Create a culture of evaluation within the organization.
Increase the amount and diversity of new private funding.
Strengthen IRIS’ governance and management to support above goals.
Evaluation and Accountability Measures: Although IRIS has made significant improvements in its services, we need to improve our documentation of impact; develop outcomes measures, as well as document the overall results of our integrated services, that is, how quickly and how thoroughly refugees become self-sufficient and engaged in their communities.
Maintain an institutional spirit of dynamism: IRIS must continue to experiment, take programmatic risks, be creative, attract staff and board members with fresh and diverse ideas, maintain an agility and a spirit to respond to new needs and opportunities, and develop new partnerships.
Early Employment for Refugees: Preparing refugees for jobs and finding employment opportunities for our clients, has always been a challenge. We need to compress this job search process into a shorter period of time- 3 or 4 months- which would have great benefits for clients, IRIS, and the community.
Reserve Fund: IRIS needs to rebuild our reserve fund and cover the costs of providing high quality services to new Americans.
Office space: IRIS needs new office space in New Haven. The ideal space will provide an additional 2,000 square feet of space (for a total of about 6,000 square feet) and would be handicap-accessible.
A refugee from Iraq who had recently arrived in New Haven was asked, “of all the things you needed when you arrived in the US; housing, employment, education, food, healthcare, etc., what did you need the most?”
His answer; “Respect.”
In the seven years I have been the director of IRIS, I have worked with nearly 1000 refugees. The nationalities have changed, programs have grown, services improved, staff have come and gone, the challenges and frustrations and joys raise and lower our spirits, and we never have enough money to do what we need to do. But, through it all, we have treated refugees – our newest Americans – with respect.
Welcoming persecuted people to the United States and helping them start new lives is our nation's oldest and most noble tradition. The basic goal of refugee resettlement is to save lives. The bonus, for Americans, is that refugees enrich our lives. Refugees bring remarkable skills and experiences. They help to internationalize our perspective on the world, and they strengthen our economy.
Visit the IRIS office one day and you’ll meet new Americans and get a feel for the international and respectful environment we’ve created. My colleagues are professional and polite. Everyone is culturally sensitive. And you will always be offered coffee or tea. You might hear me deliver a pep talk to refugees. “If you want Americans to respect you”, I feel I have said a million times. “You need to work hard.”
Greater New Haven is a welcoming community, partly because it respects diversity and appreciates hard work. But the cost of living is high and jobs for refugees with limited English are scarce. Also, there are still many people in the community who do not know what a refugee is.
In order to successfully resettle refugees in Connecticut, IRIS must educate the general public, raise significant private funds, and attract a wide range of support from volunteers and organizations. But, as I explain to our refugee clients, “I cannot stand up in front of a group – whether it’s a rotary club or a house of worship – and ask people to help you, unless you are helping yourself.”
Refugee resettlement is a tough self-help program that demands a lot from the refugees, people who have already been through a lot just to get here. Starting a new life in a new country will always be a struggle, but with broad support from the greater New Haven community, IRIS can provide high quality services and treat refugees with the respect they deserve.
In the past two years, the Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services Board of Directors has made a concerted effort to add significantly to the number of our Directors. In that period of time, we have added nine new members to the Board, bringing the total to fourteen. This new strength in numbers has enabled us to begin to function with Board committees. We now have committees for Governance, Finance, Development, Legal Services, and Nominations; with descriptions of responsibilities for each. With the completion of this phase of Board development, it is understood that the agency bylaws will need to be updated, as it has been many years since the last revision.
In mid-2011, the Board initiated a new process for strategic planning, which continues even now. The goal-setting phase is complete with unanimous approval by the Board. Objectives are still being set, with assignments for responsibility, and dates for completion.
The work of IRIS continues to be a source of pride, satisfaction, and excitement for me on a personal level. For over three decades, I and congregations served by me have participated in the work of welcoming and helping to resettle refugees in Connecticut. Some fifteen years ago, my current parish sponsored a family of five persons from Kosovo through IRIS. As we came to know about them and their extended family back home, we realized that they had left a family business and network of support behind in coming to the United States. They were glad to be here, but missed everyone and everything they had left behind. Despite a good start in Connecticut, and employment that was able to sustain them, when the opportunity arose, they opted to return home. They were sad to leave us, and we missed them greatly.
Several years later, we were surprised and overjoyed to discover that this family decided, when their children were old enough to pursue higher education, to move back to Connecticut as immigrants. It was a result of their experiences as refugees that them that they were persuaded to return to the United States in the best interests of their children, and the opportunities they would find here.
I continue to experience refugees as wonderfully adaptive people with strong survivor mentalities. They are some of the most ambitious and hard-working people I have ever known. Refugee resettlement always is one of the most satisfying causes I can imagine investing in, and I am proud of and humbled by the amazing commitment of our staff, volunteers, Board members, and donors.
IRIS participates in a global humanitarian effort to save lives. This is the agency's core work and, in a certain sense, is an end in itself. When refugees successfully start new lives here, they become active, contributing members of our society, helping to diversify the community and strengthening the workforce. Volunteers who help to resettle refugees, including faith communities and others who act as "co-sponsors" of refugee families, engage in acts of hospitality, small and large, that transform their lives and perspectives.
100% of students enrolled in the program improve their level of English language proficiency.
Refugee students in after-school programming demonstrate a 10% academic improvement (one grade level) from one year to the next.
90% of students enrolled in the program will demonstrate growth towards proficiency on curriculum assessment.
90% of students enrolled in the program improve their attendance rates over a two-year period.
100% of students enrolled in the program improve their social adjustment.
50% increase in refugee student participation in school activities such as student council.
Ishara is a Congolese refugee, resettled by IRIS in late 2010, when she was 16. IRIS education and youth services assisted Ishara with in-school and after-school tutoring, and also provided parent orientation to her mother. Over the two years she has been here, Ishara’s English has dramatically improved and has allowed her to provide translation assistance to many other IRIS clients in need of help. While she has been diligently working towards her high school diploma, Ishara has made time to participate in after school programming here at IRIS and to give back to the refugee community. Ishara has participated regularly in extracurricular trips and has enabled her younger cousins to attend by chaperoning them when their parents are working. When her busy schedule allows, Ishara has been eager to help newly arrived refugees in any way she can, including taking new refugee students entering her high school under her wing.
Ishara is now a senior at Wilbur Cross High School in New Haven, where she excels academically, consistently earning high grades and high honors, even while balancing her academics, extracurricular activity and a part-time job. Her academic performance has earned her admission to the Outstanding High School Senior Program - a highly competitive program awarded to candidates in the top 10% of their class and which allows her to leave high school and attend 4-5 college classes during the spring semester of her senior year. This spring, Ishara was notified of her acceptance into Quinnipiac University, where she will be going in the fall of 2013, as well as several other colleges, where she would like to study gynecological medicine.
Alexine previously held senior management positions at a childcare-focused international NGO in Morocco, for 7 years.
IRIS is fortunate to have many excellent collaborations throughout the Greater New Haven region and beyond. Faith communities--churches, synagogues, and mosques--are among the agency's most important partners. Some (like BEKI synagogue in Hamden and First Congregational in Milford) commit to "co-sponsoring" a refugee family, sharing the core resettlement work with IRIS and providing limited financial support to their newly-arriving family. Many non-profit organizations provide direct client assistance, including the Yale-New Haven Hospital Refugee Health Clinic, CT Mental Health Center, Connecticut Food Bank, New Haven Diaper Bank, Yale Refugee Project, Apostle Immigrant Services, and many others.
Some organizations, including the PIER/MacMillian Center, Collective Consciousness Theater, Quinnipiac University, University of New Haven, Yale University and other local groups work with IRIS to provide community outreach and education. IRIS views refugee resettlement as a collaboration and highly values its partnerships with a wide variety of community organizations.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
This profile, including the financial summaries prepared and submitted by the organization based on its own independent and/or internal audit processes and regulatory submissions, has been read by the Foundation. Financial information is inputted by Foundation staff directly from the organization’s IRS Form 990, audited financial statements or other financial documents approved by the nonprofit’s board. The Foundation has not audited the organization’s financial statements or tax filings, and makes no representations or warranties thereon. The Community Foundation is continuing to receive information submitted by the organization and may periodically update the organization’s profile to reflect the most current financial and other information available. The organization has completed the fields required by The Community Foundation and updated their profile in the last year. To see if the organization has received a competitive grant from The Community Foundation in the last five years, please go to the General Information Tab of the profile.
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