A blog about my life, writings and whatever strikes my fancy.
Wednesday, December 7, 2016
Judging the refugee center
Note: this was originally written over seven years ago. I took it down for a while but decided to put it back up. The refugee center in Albany is much better run now and it appears that the director, Jill Peckinpaugh, was chosen because she has management skills. By contrast when this was written the director was chosen because she was a skilled photographer with good public relations skills. (???)
Within this blog I have made some pretty harsh condemnations of USCRI-Albany, the local refugee center, and the way it operates. Quite frankly, I don't really enjoy writing these things, then again in the last two weeks I've run into a couple people who know the center. They agree that the place is extremely disorganized and just rolled their eyes when it was mentioned. And interestingly enough, these were both people who had no idea how I felt about the center or that I had any real connection with it or even had a connection with refugees. (I spend a lot of time at events and activities that involve other cultures and so do many people who are interested in refugee concerns.)
Surely some who read this disagree or want to check for themselves.
Here's some thoughts on how to do that.
1) Check the newspaper or read blogs. Do google searches on the name of the organization. See what people are saying about it.
2) Check the rate of turn over among employees and volunteers. One way to do this is by noting the rate at which they seek volunteers. This is done through several sources, one is idealist.org , a website and e-mail service that advertises volunteer and paid positions for organizations that strive to make the world a better place. Just last week someone, a third person, noted that based on its postings in idealist.org the organization seemed to be searching constantly for volunteers of all kinds and often for the same positions. They saw this as a sign of a problem and, quite frankly, it is. Volunteers tend to burn out quickly due to the confusion within the organization. Others find they can do the same things they enjoyed doing at the center but with less hassles without the center getting in the way. (I started out teaching English there. If I understand correctly, they have gone through three different volunteer directors of their English program in the last year.)
3) Check with the agencies it works with and their volunteers. Ask for instance, their landlord, the people who rent them property and house the refugees, AAA Used Furniture, the local health clinics, the churches they work with, and the local literacy volunteer program. Ask them what they think of USCRI-Albany. Who knows? They might say something good.
4) Check with the government agencies that do business with it. These are easy enough to find. Just google "USCRI-Albany." What should soon stick out is that many of these agencies have both the address of USCRI-Albany and the name of the director wrong on their referral lists. I have toyed with the idea of making such a list of misdirected referals but it's just not something I wish to do.
5) Ask former refugees and immigrants from the ethnic groups whose members are served by the local refugee center. When I do this, even casually, it's not uncommon for people to start screaming.
6) Check with the Better Business Bureau. If you'd like their report is here. You'll note that the CEO of the national organization makes approximately $200,000 a year, which was equal to two thirds of their Albany office budget in 2006. Not very encouraging, I'm afraid. Why, I wonder, does the CEO make so much when the director of the local office has no management credentials and whose primary background with refugees prior to assuming office was to take pictures of them?
Again, don't listen to me. Please don't listen to former interns. Just do your own homework. Then make your own conclusions.
SUGGESTED SEARCHES FOR THOSE LOOKING FOR CONCRETE ADVICE ON HELPING REFUGEES
1. FURNITURE(tips on running a refugee center furniture collection program.)
2. DRIVING (tips on teaching driving to refugees)
3. HIGHER EDUCATION (tips on assisting refugees with higher education.)
4. BURMESE NAMES (a long article on Burmese and Karen names.)
I tend to write several entries on a subject and although admittedly they are of variable quality by following the topic keys then one should get a fairly complete view of what I think on the issue. There's a lot of good information buried here particularly on some obscure subjects related to assisting newly arrived refugees, particularly from Burma. These subjects include furniture donation issues, driver education and even domestic violence. If these issues interest you, follow the internal links, do searches, there's a lot here and I've found that often people search on a subject using google, I've written an answer, but the search engines sent them to some other entry where I discussed only a small part of the issue. So if a subject that interests you has a truly mediocre entry there is probably a good one hidden away as well on different aspects of the same subject You can't get a full picture on the issues covered in this blog by reading just one entry. it wasn't written that way. If you still don't see what you want, feel free to drop me an e-mail. Thank you.
Journalist, educator, and low level Asian history scholar who dabbles in fiction. Peter Huston is the author of several books, including Scams from the Great Beyond, Tong, Gangs, and Triads,, and the novel, Excess Emotional Baggage.
Interests include :
1) Internatinal Education and Teaching English as a Second or other Language,
2)refugee concerns and refugee resettlement,
3)self defense and martial arts,
4) Asian culture and history,
5) censorship controversies
6) the skeptical examination of paranormal and pseudo-scientific claims.
Education includes a master's degree in East Asian Studies from Cornell and a second master's degree in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) from the University at Albany, party of the New York State SUNY system.
I am not the sailing guy, sports betting guy or the attorney guy. These people who use the name Peter Huston are, presumably, impostors. I am the real