Cross Over Community Development was named in honor of the challenges and opportunities that immigrants and refugees encounter as they cross from their home countries to their new lives in Ohio.
Understanding Immigrants and Refugees
Immigrants are individuals who have chosen to move to another country. Their reasons may be prompted by difficult conditions in their home country or aspirations to a better life in another country; the essential criterion is that immigration is by choice.
Conversely, refugees are, according to the United Nation, individuals who have been forced to flee their country because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Most likely, they cannot return home or are afraid to do so. War and ethnic, tribal and religious violence are leading causes of refugees fleeing their countries.
In Dayton Communities
Cross Over Community Development primarily serves immigrants and refugees in Dayton who are English language learners from oral cultures. Our services most specifically meet the needs of the east African immigrant population of Dayton, Ohio. In the past two decades, the City of Dayton has experienced an unprecedented increase of immigrants from all over the world, but especially from Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, and South Sudan. As these new and increasingly diverse communities continue to settle and grow in Dayton, they face unique challenges of adapting to a new life in a new country, culture, and environment.
According to statistics provided by the National Immigration Forum, Congolese were the topmost resettled population in the year 2017. In Ohio alone, we received 2,867 refugees in 2017. The vast majority of refugees are supported by Catholic Social Services’ Refugee Resettlement and Self-Sufficiency Services, a program that aids refugees in reaching the US and for the first few months after their arrival.
The first few months of arrival in the US are critical, but are still only the beginning. Many of our immigrant and refugee families go on to live long-term lives in our communities, but remain largely invisible to others. Public awareness is low, largely unattuned to the presence of refugees, specifically Congolese refugees, in Dayton, Ohio, and elsewhere throughout the state. The relative invisibility of Congolese and other African immigrants and refugees can make it more difficult for organizations that serve immigrants to know how to connect with them, and for the immigrants and refugees themselves to know how to access those services.
Part of this invisibility arises because many African immigrants and refugees come from oral language cultures, which means they may encounter exceptional difficulties in the written word-focused United States, particularly when it comes to learning English. Most of the resources and programs provided for immigrants and refugees entail reading brochures, forms, and other handouts. However, people from oral cultures learn best by doing, watching, and hearing. Typically, especially for refugees who have few resources upon arriving in the United States, becoming literate is not a pressing priority because they do not understand the importance of it yet. Instead, they prefer to learn practical skills immediately, just as they did in their native culture.
While we acknowledge that the greater Dayton area actively welcomes immigrants and refugees and provides significant services to support them, we also know that there is space for us to contribute and further improve the quality of life for our immigrant and refugee families and communities. Because our volunteer staff are intimately familiar with the experience of “crossing over” from African countries to the United States, we are able to provide additional support and explanations that improve immigrant and refugees’ ability to access the services available to them, and otherwise support them as they try to navigate this new culture. We work with both new and established immigrants and refugees, connecting them to resources that can help them lead fulfilling and dignified lives here in Ohio.
Learn more about African immigrants and refugees in the United States and in Dayton: