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Syracuse Somali-Bantu community’s desire to be self-sufficient drives federal grant

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Syracuse Somali-Bantu community’s desire to be self-sufficient drives federal grant

Haji Adan, executive director of the Somali Bantu Community Association of Onondaga County Inc., speaks to the Syracuse Media Group editorial board Monday, Dec. 15, 2014. The association has recently received an up to $450,000 grant from the federal government to provide refugee services. (Marie Morelli | mmorelli@syracuse.com)

 The Somali-Bantu Community Association of Onondaga County has received a three-year federal grant worth up to $450,000 to provide services to help refugees become self-sufficient.

The money will be used to provide wraparound assistance to refugees in need of translation services, advocacy, job placement and other services throughout Onondaga County.

The association already provides those services through volunteers, but the grant will allow it to hire five workers, including himself, said Executive Director Haji A. Adan.

The Somali-Bantu association was one of 18 refugee programs across the country that will receive nearly $3 million in Ethnic Community Self-Help grants from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement. The grants fund programs that help refugees help themselves become self-sufficient.

The Somali-Bantu association’s initial grant of $150,000 is for fiscal year 2015 and the federal office expects to provide additional grants in fiscal years 2016 and 2017 for a total of $450,000 over three years, a federal spokeswoman said.

The nonprofit association was founded in 2004 to serve refugees experiencing difficulty resettling in Syracuse beyond the initial nine months of service provided by initial refugee services, Adan said.

“After nine months nobody was helping them,” he said.

Volunteers provided refugees with interpretation and translation services, job placement, adult English language classes, advocacy for community needs, after school programs, youth development training and workshops. Soon other refugees from Bhutan, Congo, Iraq and Burma also sought services from the Somali program, Adan said.

From 2001 through 2012, Syracuse has welcomed 7,200 refugees from 27 countries. Since 2010, the association has served 1,423 clients. The association is currently working with 745 refugee families.

The association plans to diversify its board of directors and will change its name to better reflect the diversity of the people it serves, Adan said.

source:Syracuse .com