Between 1998 and 2015, 7,389 refugees from Burma of various ethnicities arrived in Minnesota from overseas (Minnesota Department of Human Services Resettlement Programs Office, 2010, 2016). This research is a continuation of two studies (Stone, 2010, 2011) that examined 1) the well-being and satisfaction of Karen refugees placed in employment in Worthington, Minnesota, by Lifetrack, a nonprofit social services organization, and 2) factors in the community that influenced their degree of satisfaction. Utilizing comparable methodology, the current study is focused on 1) the satisfaction of Karen and Karenni refugees placed by Lifetrack in Austin, Minnesota, for employment and 2) factors in the community that contributed to that satisfaction. Between February 18 and September 17, 2011 Lifetrack assisted 63 Karen, 20 Karenni, and 7 Chin refugees from Burma to find employment and social service support in Austin, Minnesota. Results of in-depth, ethnographically inspired interviews with Karen and Karenni refugees assisted by Lifetrack as well as interviews with the receiving Austin community leaders are analyzed to present critical factors contributing to resettlement adaptation and satisfaction. Keywords: Karen, Karenni, Burma, Myanmar, refugees, mutual adaptation, the “new” Minnesota.
This case study examines the satisfaction of refugees who relocated from the St. Paul-Minneapolis metropolitan area to Austin, Minnesota, to obtain employment and who were assisted by the St. Paul nonprofit Lifetrack in 2011. This research also attempts to determine what essential services Lifetrack provided and what the community of Austin did to welcome the refugees into the community. This is a companion study to earlier research conducted in 2010 and 2011 to determine the factors contributing to the satisfaction of Karen refugees who Lifetrack assisted with relocation to Worthington, Minnesota, to obtain employment.
Because most of the agencies that assist newly arriving refugees are located in the Twin Cities metro area, there is intense competition for steady, full-time employment with benefits for people with limited or no English and without a job history in the US. Lifetrack, a Twin Cities based nonprofit, began assisting refugees seeking work to find employment in smaller cities during a time of nationally high unemployment. They created an innovative procedure, the Lifetrack Model for Successful Refugee Employment Relocation (Lifetrack Model) to ensure the satisfaction of refugees with their placement, which attached them to social services, housing, and health care, and assisted in community building so that they would not feel stranded and could begin to build a community in a new location. Lifetrack hired Karen1 and Karenni2 staff, chose an initial group of refugees most likely to succeed and provided them with intensive support. This research will explore which of Lifetrack’s services were helpful to the Karen and Karenni as they relocated to Austin.
Prepared in partnership with Lifetrack by the Community Assistantship Program (CAP), which is administered by the Center for Urban and Regional Affairs (CURA) at the University of Minnesota.
Intercultural Adaptation of Refugees and Rural Communities: From Burma to Minnesota.
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