To increase awareness of Dayton’s refugee population, the University of Dayton will host a conference entitled “Engaging Refugees, Building Community, Becoming Citizens: Refugees in a New Community” to promote planning among local institutions to help integrate displaced peoples.
The Nov. 16 conference stems from the Ethnic and Cultural Diversity Caucus, an initiative of the National Conference for Community and Justice of Greater Dayton, according to a UD press release.
Theo Majka, a sociology professor, worked with researchers to conduct a study focusing on community involvement including organizations, groups and institutions, to better facilitate the integration and incorporation of foreign-born into the area, he said.
The conference acts as a bookend and summary of an extensive study, according to Majka.
The extensive study aimed to identify issues often referred to as barriers to the refugee populations, including a language barrier, mental health issues originating from the sometimes violent situation of their native country, and the learning curve involved with integration into U.S. society, he said.
Throughout the study, the research team interviewed human resource agency representatives who deal with refugee populations as well as leaders from six targeted populations, including Sudanese, Burundian, Rwandan, Congolese, Iraqi and Meskhetian Turk refugees.
Jeanette Taylor, a conference organizer and a NCCJ employee, explained that many of the recommendations that came out of the two-year study are the things that will be highlighted at the conference.
“Many of the big needs of refugees in the city of Dayton are housing, employment, a better understanding of law enforcement and access to better healthcare,” Taylor said.
Jane Bloom, the U.S. liaison officer for the International Catholic Migration Commission, and Johnny Young, the executive director of the office of Migration and Refugee Services for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, will both speak at the conference, according to the press release.
Because the U.S. resettles more refugees than any other country in the world, both speakers will place the issue of refugee integration in an international and national context, Majka said.
While the keynote speakers will address the big picture of the issue, the conference will also feature workshops specific to the Dayton community.
“Out of the workshops offered, we hope, that in some areas, plans and strategies will be developed to move us along the road; to build on the very substantial things that are already being done,” Majka said.
While he said the conference is not specifically geared toward a student audience, interested students, as well as faculty, can attend the event and can choose from six different workshops.
Majka explained UD students would be most interested in attending the two workshops featuring “the face of the refugee population themselves.” In both workshops, refugees will share their personal stories, he said.
“It is important for our young people to get a better understanding of people who have not been afforded some of the same opportunities that we have,” Taylor said.
The cost of conference registration is $25 and includes a boxed lunch. However, members of the UD community who pre-register do not have to pay the fee. The number of participants is limited to 140, and UD students and faculty must pre-register if interested.
For more information or to register for the event, email firstname.lastname@example.org.