Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS): Assisting Refugees and Immigrants in Columbus, Ohio
Community Refugee & Immigration Services (CRIS) is a local non-profit organization that serves the needs of the immigrant community in Columbus as well as elsewhere in Central Ohio. In a larger context, it is an affiliate of Church World Service (although it is not a church), and it works with the US State Department to help resettle refugees. CRIS is served by about 50 members who speak dozens of different languages.
Refugee resettlement is not all that CRIS does, however — in fact, it provides such a comprehensive range of services to immigrants that it has definitely taken its place as one of Ohio’s most prominent organizations serving this population. It provides immigrants, refugees, and asylum seekers with various assistance including:(but not limited to) parenting classes, occupational training, ESL classes, and health programs.
CRIS’s beginnings were humble. It began as a program offered by the Buddhamamaka (Buddhist Devotees) Society, Inc., an organization which was itself founded in the 1980s by Laotian refugees. In 1995 the Buddhamamaka established CRIS in order to fill the gap that was opened by the closure of two local refugee resettlement programs.
CRIS grew rapidly and opened its second office in 1999 with the help of the United Way and the Columbus city government. Its affiliation with the Church World Service (CWS) began in 2001. CRIS now maintains three offices in the Columbus area, and many people expect further growth.
Some of the Services Offered by CRIS
Following is a brief overview of some of the refugee, asylee and immigrant-related services offered by CRIS.
The CRIS Refugee Resettlement Program
CRIS maintains an indirect contractual relationship with the US State Department to resettle refugees from all over the world in the Columbus area. In fact, many CRIS staff members who provide resettlement services to refugees are former refugees themselves. A major portion of the value provided to refugee families by CRIS consists of teaching them necessary survival skills (not limited to English language skills) rather than simply offering handouts.
The CRIS Employment Services helps refugees prepare for participation in the local workforce so that they can eventually become self-sufficient. CRIS offers daily classes on various aspects of American culture, especially as it relates to the workplace. Since the language of instruction is English, these classes also function indirectly as ESL classes. Some of the topics include:
Corporate culture: Dress, communication, etc.;
Child care skills;
Goal setting, especially as it relates to career management; and
The job search (how to fill out a job application, how to interview, etc.)
Individual employment counseling
CRIS maintains employment counselors who work with individuals on a one-on-one basis to make sure they achieve their goals by applying what they learned in class to the outside world. CRIS’s employment counselors assist their clients with writing job applications, preparing for interviews, arranging child care services and transportation, and providing various other forms of support.
Formal English language training classes are held daily. In these classes, unlike other classes offered to refugees by CRIS, learning the English language itself is the primary goal of instruction) in the form of ESOL (English to Speakers of Other languages) classes.
CRIS’s administrative offices are open Monday to Friday during business hours (8:30 am to 4:30 pm). Walk-ins are welcome — normally, no appointment is necessary. Its main office is located at 1925 East Dublin-Granville Road, Suite 102, Columbus, Ohio 43229, and its telephone number is (614) 235-5747.