Imagine being relatively new to not only the Diocese of Cleveland but to the United States. And further compounding things is the coronavirus pandemic.
That’s the situation for hundreds of immigrants and refugees who are being assisted by Catholic Charities, Diocese of Cleveland. Tom Mrosko, director of Catholic Charities’ Office of Migration and Refugee Services said they serve all refugees coming into Cuyahoga County and secondary migrants. He oversees one of the state’s largest refugee resettlement and immigrant services organizations. Currently, their client list is about 300.
“We also help clients during a five-year window (after their arrival),” said Hilary Lucas, program administrator for the office. She said some clients who have been managing well on their own now need some assistance as a result of the pandemic.
“Many of our clients work at jobs that are considered essential,” she said, including food, manufacturing, producing medical supplies, sewing at home or in a socially distanced work environment, line cooks and in restaurants that offer take-out orders.
“Some have had their hours cut at work but other family members are employed and are helping them so they’re doing OK,” Lucas said. However, about 20 clients need assistance filling out the forms for unemployment benefits, she said, so staff members are helping them through that process.
Caseworkers are dropping off food, health, safety and medical supplies as needed. Some clients recently received face masks and grocery gift cards. Clients also continue to work on their English skills by using online apps. In addition, information about the coronavirus that is translated into various languages is available to clients.
Mrosko said the MRS attorneys are very busy helping clients with legal issues. Recent arrivals are from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Central America, Iraq and Ukraine. “We’ve had no new arrivals since March when the pandemic lockdown began,” he added.
Although in-person meetings with caseworkers, attorneys and other MRS staff members have been suspended since March, Mrosko said the staff stays in touch mainly by phone. House calls can be made when necessary with safety protocols observed.
“We used to have an open door policy and welcomed clients to our office,” Lucas said, “but when office hours resume, clients will be seen by appointment only.”
Mrosko said MRS decided to produce a short video featuring some of its clients. Andy Matay, volunteer coordinator, assisted with the video project. Mrosko and Matay said they had seen and heard about videos featuring other Catholic Charities’ programs. They also became aware of the fundraising impact a video can have through the #weGiveCatholic initiative, a one-day, online day of giving that takes place on Giving Tuesday, which will be Dec. 1.
“We thought it would be a good idea to show what goes on in our program,” Mrosko said. Staff members who made visits were encouraged to take video clips – with their clients’ consent. Some video was shot by caseworkers and one client provided a clip. Mrosko said everyone in the video supported the project.
The video clips were sent to Matay who edited them and knitted it into one cohesive video with music, transitions and text. Matay and Mrosko said people are becoming more comfortable with videos, so they may produce more.
Click here to see the MRS video.