Refugee settlement is subject of conference
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01/26/09 Andrea Lypka
WMNF Drive-Time News Monday | Listen to this entire show:

Florida receives the largest number of refugees in the country, about 25,000 every year, says Hiram Ruiz director of the state's Refugee Services Program in the Department of Children and Families.

The program assists refugees in the resettlement process. Refugees face barriers when they are arrive including the language barrier, Ruiz says. Another barrier is the different cultural context. Many of the refugees have lived in a rural setting in their home country or have lived in refugee camps for many years. It is challenging for agencies to help them integrate into the communities, he says.

Integration of the refugees will be the topic of the conference Adapting to a Changing World: Promising Practices in the Acculturation Process for Refugees on Jan. 28 in Miami; it will be hosted by Refugee Services and the Clearwater-based Gulf Coast Jewish Family Services. The keynote speaker is Dr. Richard Mollica, director of the Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma (HPRT) of Massachusetts Hospital and Harvard Medical School. He is also the co-founder of the Indochinese Psychiatry Clinic (IPC).

Dr. Lynn McBrien, assistant professor in the Department of Psychological and Social Foundations at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee College of Education, will present the research she conducted last year when she provided digital cameras for 17 refugee high school students from Pinellas, Pasco and Hillsborough counties and they conducted several interviews with the refugee students.

For more information about the conference visit GCJFS.org.

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