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Building relationships with refugee communities

Local refugee communities may not be widely visible to the larger population in some areas, but there are a number of ways to effectively establish connections among these groups in your community.

Local organizations

Contacting local organizations designated to assist refugees is a good first step, especially for those who are unfamiliar with their area’s refugee populations. These organizations can offer more insight about local communities and community-specific issues as well as provide connections to refugees.

Examples include refugee resettlement organizations and entities that serve refugee groups on local or national levels. Resettlement organizations are entities that help newly arrived refugees get settled into their community; you can find resources and contacts in your state through this Office of Refugee Resettlement resource.

One example of a State Department-designated resettlement agency is International Rescue Committee, which has 28 locations in America.  Larger organizations like IRC can provide context about statewide resettlement and population trends. Local organizations, which may vary widely based on the communities they serve, are another helpful resource for learning more about refugee community issues and events in the vicinity.

Community connections

Making community-based connections is essential to any type of coverage, and the ways to connect with refugees are similar to other communities. This includes:

  • Reaching out to community groups and leaders
    Attending local events
    Contacting schools and churches
    Connecting with community guides or liaisons

Many of the interviewees for this study stressed the significance of making a sincere, intentional effort in getting to know these communities and organizations. Solís said these things are important in order to build trust with sources. “I try to spend time getting to know those at resettlement agencies and at schools so I can win trust about my sincere desire to tell their stories with authenticity from the inside out,” she said. Another way to make intentional connections is by attending community events like community meetings or celebrations, even if you’re not on assignment.

It’s also important, reporters told us, to take phone calls, respond to emails and listen to the communities — again, even if there might not be an immediate story to get from these interactions. As with any other group, making the time and effort in sincerely getting to know refugees is key.

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