New Roots for Refugees

New Roots is strengthening refugee families and building the local food system.

Imagine fleeing your homeland, fearing for your life and the lives of your family. You leave behind your home, your livelihood, and your possessions to find yourself in a crowded camp with thousands of others who have also fled their homes. You want a better life for yourself and your family, but because of political upheaval and the realities of life in a refugee camp, you can’t see a way to make that happen. You have no job and few rights. This is the life of a refugee. After years of waiting and rounds of interviews, you finally get help. But you are not going home. You are going to a new country. In this new country you do not speak the language, you do not dress the same, you do not have the same customs. There are new ways to do everything. You are happy and scared at the same time.

You must put down new roots and establish a new home.

Catholic Charities of Northeast Kansas resettles refugees in the Kansas City area, offering case management, job development, English classes, and hope for those who have suffered for too long. New Roots for Refugees, a program started by Catholic Charities in partnership with Cultivate KC, helps refugee women put down new roots by helping them to start their own small farm businesses growing and selling vegetables. New Roots builds on the strengths and experience that the refugees already possess. Farming is a familiar livelihood that offers them some measure of self-determination and self-sufficiency, healthy food for their families, extra income, and a context for settling into their new communities. Agriculture allows them to put down new roots, metaphorically and literally, and to become citizens who produce and give to their new communities. In the New Roots Program, participants start farming with significant training and support from Catholic Charities and Cultivate KC staff. As their farm businesses become established and they develop more skills, they move to greater financial and managerial independence. Eventually they are able to move onto their own land and operate independently.

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