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2012 10-06 Rey Ty and M. Beltran Figueroa. Contending Approaches for Refugee Services for Karen Refugees in Indiana.
Ty, Rey and Maria Beltra Figueroa
Contending Approaches to Refugee Services
There are problems in refugee services. Well-intentioned refugee service providers offer services which are inappropriate to the refugees' needs. Refugees are treated as outsiders who lack knowledge, skills, and values to be useful members of the new society where they live, as a consequence of which they become estranged in the host country. Hence, alternative interventions are needed for refugee empowerment. This paper discusses the different ways by which refugee services are provided to Karen refugees in Indiana. The first model is the traditional one, in which the omniscient cultural outsiders provide for all the basic needs of the refugees. Deconstructing the dominant approach, the alternative post-structuralist model uses a human rights-based and culturally sensitive approach to refugee work. Using the case study research design, this paper selects a farm project and a weaving project, both of which are in Indianapolis. Data collection was based upon site visits, participant observation, community dialogue, and document analysis. Maria Beltran-Figueroa is the executive director of Refugee Resource and Research Institute based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rey Ty is the Training Coordinator of the International Training Office of Northern Illinois University who brings participants of international programs to field visits, including the Karen refugees in Indianapolis. The findings reveal that, on the one hand, the first model promotes a hierarchical relation between the superior service providers and the inferior service recipients. On the other hand, the second approach promotes the economic, political, and cultural empowerment of the Karen refugees. Policy implications will be discussed.