The Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants: Improving Lives

Apr 10, 2019

By Contributing Editor: Brynne Bartiromo
Marketing & Communication Associate, Fairfield County’s Community Foundation

For over 100 years, the Connecticut Institute for Refugees and Immigrants (CIRI) has established a legacy of leadership, advocacy and compassionate services for immigrants, refugees and survivors of human trafficking and torture. For CIRI’s President & CEO, Claudia Connor, it’s a point of pride to continue that mission into the future and to serve those in need in Fairfield County and throughout Connecticut.

“There’s a real depth of service that has been truly transformative for immigrants and their families, serving as notable markers for our first 100 years. It’s not just about helping them get settled, but continuing those efforts to aid in creating new lives and helping people integrate into Fairfield County and across the state,” shared Connor.

With resources and grant funding from Fairfield County’s Community Foundation, CIRI continues to increase impact

CIRI’s relationship with Fairfield County’s Community Foundation (FCCF) has been critical in its ability to achieve impact. Through grants from FCCF, CIRI has strengthened the economic empowerment services it offers. These include workforce readiness and job placement offerings. As a result, CIRI is able to serve more people, in a deeper way.

CIRI’s staff has participated in a variety of workshops delivered by FCCF’s Center for Nonprofit Excellence. Their learnings have helped improve skills related to project management and the organization’s finance function. And Fairfield County’s Giving Day, powered by FCCF, has been a remarkable way to amplify and highlight CIRI’s work and advocate for support of the immigrant and refugee population. CIRI raise more than $15,000 on 2019’s Fairfield County’s Giving Day.

“The inclusion of the immigrant population in FCCF’s strategic plan is also substantially important for CIRI. It’s stating that immigrants are a huge component of the population that is deserving and in need of support.

“To an agency like ours, serving 3,500 immigrants each year, to know that the Community Foundation recognizes that need is truly helpful,” Connor said.

Sadly, we are at a time in history where there are more displaced people in the world than ever before. Immigrants are challenged further than they otherwise would be, and there is a global movement of people being forced from their homes against their will. CIRI works to help Connecticut clients address and overcome the many barriers they face. CIRI focuses on helping their constituents become self-reliant and to integrate in their new communities, with an understanding that achieving this is no small feat.

“There are obstacles our clients face, from learning a new language, to understanding how you heal from deep loss. Those challenges are even more prevalent now, with policies that prohibit people coming into the country by nature of their ethnicity or nationality. These policies are also keeping refugees and immigrants in detention unnecessarily, or for unnecessary amounts of time,” said Connor.

CIRI aids in resolving legal, economic and social barriers clients face, while educating partners to increase outreach and support

CIRI arms clients with information and knowledge about their rights, while also continuing to deliver the legal, social and psychosocial services they provide. It’s also deeply important to CIRI to educate the non-immigrant partner organizations. They have done outreach and provided educational programs for Connecticut academic institutions, law enforcement and other service providers as a way to increase participation and awareness, while helping them protect the people they serve.

FCCF has participated in CIRI’s education and outreach programs. Recently, FCCF’s Rising Professional Advisors Council (RPAC) had the opportunity to meet with CIRI at their headquarters in Bridgeport. While there, members of RPAC engaged in a conversation with CIRI staff, getting to know the work that they do for immigrants in the community. RPAC members also participated in a service project helping CIRI clients compose their resumes.

“Everyone who attended really enjoyed learning more about what CIRI does, understanding more about immigration in general and how difficult it is for individuals and their families. It was truly eye opening. Being able to help in any small way is really important,” shared Lane Marmon, Chair of FCCF’s Rising Professional Advisors Council and VP Financial Advisor at Wealth Enhancement Group®.

The partnership between FCCF and CIRI is critical for both organizations efforts to serve and engage communities throughout the county. As CIRI enters into its second century, the organization aims to continue its commitment to improving the lives of the individuals and families they serve. CIRI will fight to raise awareness of the circumstances faced by immigrants and embrace the strength of inclusion, empowering all to thrive in Connecticut and beyond.

Contributing Editor:
Brynne Bartiromo
Marketing & Communications Associate
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation