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Lancaster refugee center, community school marks 1 year anniversary of opening

12/14/2016 Lancaster Online By DAN NEPHIN

It can be hard for refugees and immigrants to become part of a new community. 

Dan Marschka - Staff Photographer for Lancaster Online

Navigating social, health and educational services. Understanding a different social life and culture.

“People are nowhere when they come here,” Khem Subedi said.

Subedi is community school facilitator for the Refugee Center and Community School at Reynolds Middle School, which recently marked its one-year anniversary.

The center, part of a program run by Lancaster-Lebanon Intermediate Unit 13, works to smooth the transition and connect refugees with needed services.

Subedi moved to the U.S. five years ago from Nepal, where he was a high school principal and ran nongovernmental organizations.

Program partners spoke about the center’s achievements during a brief event Tuesday at Reynolds that featured two refugee middle school students playing violin and flute.

The center provides support to low-income refugees, immigrants and other families in the School District of Lancaster.

Subedi's job with the coalition “just fits my background of helping people ... the needs of refugees are so vast,” he said.

The U.S. State Department contracts with agencies to help refugees during their first 90 days in America. However, that’s not always enough time for refugees to get on their feet.

The government offers refugee status to people who have been persecuted or fear serious harm and who are of special humanitarian concern to the United States. Refugees are generally people outside of their country who are unable or unwilling to return home.

So far, the center has served more than 300 children and adults in the city’s northwest, which has the highest concentration of refugees, according to the district.

Besides the IU and the school district, other partners include SouthEast Lancaster Health Services and Literacy Council of Lancaster-Lebanon.

“Lancaster has a long history of welcoming refugees and immigrants, and we want to do everything we can through this center and all of our schools to give these children the support they need to be successful,” SDL Superintendent Damaris Rau said.

The center provides tutoring, English as a second language classes, clubs and other activities after school as well as workshops for parents to connect to schools, job training and case management.

SouthEast Lancaster Health Services runs a clinic next to the center’s community school room inside Reynolds. So far, it’s served 1,526 people, including 447 refugees, Rau said.

Jennifer Black, chief operating officer of SouthEast, said the program enables partner organizations to identify and coordinate services.

Cheryl Hiester, executive director of the Literacy Council, echoed Black’s assessment of the coalition’s value.

“The refugee center project has created a service hub for the agencies that provide services for refugees and immigrants,” she said.

Funding for the coalition includes $297,500 per year for three years from the United Way of Lancaster, $100,000 from the Rotary Club of Lancaster and $100,000 from the Lancaster County Community Foundation. The school district also provides $100,000 funding a year and provides space free of charge in Reynolds.

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