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University of Nebraska Public Policy Center

Fusion Ethnic Self-Help Project

Lincoln is among the largest resettlement sites per capita in the country. A collaboration of ethnic community organizations and other health and human services organizations gathered in 2006 with this vision:

For refugee families in Lincoln, Lancaster County, NE to achieve self-sufficiency and social and civic integration into their new country and new communities.

To achieve the vision, collaborators worked to develop robust, internal self-help networks within and between four cultural communities: Asian, African, Middle Eastern and Eastern European. The networks created expertise within communities to share information about availability of appropriate services. The three-year project, which was renewed in 2009 for an additional three years, set out the following goals:

  • Help the refugee communities to work together to share and learn about developing vibrant ethnic communities together;
  • Assist each refugee family in achieving self-sufficiency and social and civic integration into their new country and new community; and,
  • Assist Lincoln’s mainstream community in becoming better equipped to work with refugees.

The University of Nebraska Public Policy Center was responsible for assessing the impact of the project toward reaching these goals. The primary emphases of the implementation assessment were:

What has been the experience of refugees and refugee community leaders?
In 2009, twelve semi structured interviews were conducted with refugees and project staff members. Interview questions were designed to capture respondents’ experiences with the Fusion Project, their perceptions of the impact of the project, what project activities they felt were successful, what activities they felt weren’t as effective, and respondents’ suggestions for what might be done differently.

Respondents indicated various ways the Fusion Project helped those working for mainstream organizations better understand and serve Lincoln’s refugee communities: Fusion educational/social events were a valuable setting at which mainstream organization participants learned about refugee culture and gave refugees information about their organization; Fusion affected how members of the mainstream community interacted with refugees by helping them understand that not all refugee communities share the same cultural beliefs or experiences; and the number of requests by mainstream organizations for assistance from Fusion increased.

What has been the impact on mainstream community organizations?
Two focus groups of mainstream organization representatives were held in the fall of 2010. The mainstream organization representatives’ comments regarding the value of Fusion to the organizations reiterated many of the Fusion staff members and refugee comments from the 2009 evaluation. More specific comments were heard regarding Fusion partnering with mainstream agencies to help refugees understand the legal system and services available to them.

What was Lincoln residents’ knowledge of the Fusion Program and how would they describe their experience with and attitudes toward the refugee community?
A random-digit dial, twelve-question survey of Lincoln residents was conducted in February 2012. Although most respondents were not at all familiar with the Fusion Project, most appeared to be supportive of refugees and of the types of services that Fusion offers.

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