Community-based Institute to Improve Refugee Services in USA
21 June 2011: Burmese and Chin communities based in Indianapolis, USA welcomed the formation of a non-profit community-based institute to provide assistance to refugees in their new home of resettlement.
With its motto ‘Advocating-Connecting-Educating-Serving’, the organization established as Burmese American Community Institute (BACI) aims to stand as a common platform through which assistance services can be given to refugees in their pursuit of education, employment and other basic needs.
Key speakers at its first Open House Program last Friday included Jane A. Gehlhausen, Director of International & Cultural Affairs of Indianapolis; Carleen Miller, Executive Director of Exodus Refugee; Olga Tuchman, Indiana Department of Education; and Connie Miller, Marion County Public Health Department.
In her opening remarks, Jane A. Gehlhausen said: “Mayor Greg Ballard and our Office, International & Cultural Affairs, are very committed to supporting BACI and other refugee service providers.” She also encouraged and invited BACI and the refugee communities for collaboration.
BACI is set to step up its efforts to increase sustainable employment for the refugee community and make rise of last year’s low rate of college enrollment by the Burmese High School graduates in the near future.
“In my humble opinion and assessment, the current state of our community is not sustainable economically, and our future is full of uncertainty. We want to have a better future and a stronger community. To be able to do so, we need education,” said Salai Elaisa Vahnie, Executive Director of BACI in answering to the question asked by Chinland Guardian.
“Among various needs and challenges, BACI will initially be focusing on advocacy, educational and employment,” added Salai Elaisa Vahnie.
Van Ceu Uk, Chairman of Chin Community of Indiana, welcomed the inception of BACI for putting efforts to tackling various issues challenging the Burmese and Chin refugees in Indianapolis and offered collaborations.
Hlawn Kip Tlem, a Chin refugee who arrived in USA in 2008 and graduated from Southport High School this summer, thanked and appealed their refugee parents and stakeholders in Indianapolis to continue to help with their children education.
“Tonight, you give us a new hope for our future. And I believe that your work will contribute to our better future.”
Chairman of BACI Board of Directors, Rev. Dr. Stephen Hre Kio, said: “BACI has a solid beginning and I am impressed. I also like to say thank you to Elaisa for being committed to the goals of BACI.”
“An organization like BACI is necessary to help the refugees population in Indianapolis in any way we can. The needs of refugees are myriad, my wife and I know it because we took care of over a thousand of them in Guam for many years. It will require the participation of many, both refugees and citizens to make the lives of new refugees successful. Let us all support BACI by all means. Let us make our community livable.”
It is estimated that more than 70 percent of about 7,000 Burmese refugees currently living in Indianapolis are Chin, with the rest being Karen and others.
Van Biak Thang