The Foundation first received funding from the State of Michigan Department of Community Health in October 2010 for a new initiative, Refugee Acculturation Sustainability and Training (RAST). The program aims to solve the major issues impacting today’s Iraqi refugee population including transportation, housing, job placement, language development, mental health, immigration, social and government program directives, and basic necessities. The goal is to this population assimilate and become less dependent on government subsidies and services.
RAST assists refugees with some of the major hurdles they face as they start over in the United States and has partnered with Macomb Community College for language development and Bank of Michigan to establish the Chaldean Loan Fund. The Chaldean Loan Fund will also provide business loans, which are privately donated to assist in establishing credit and investing in small businesses.
The language barrier: RAST links refugees to English as Second Language classes that also include a practical work component.
Transportation: With its limited public transportation network, getting around is a key problem for the newcomers. RAST is establishing a Chaldean Loan Fund for refugees to obtain low interest loans for the purchase of used vehicles, providing them the opportunity to and establish credit.
Securing housing: RAST is linking clients with resources to help them identify and connect with various housing solution providers. The Foundation is also developing a long-term plan to assist with housing solutions.
Finding a job: RAST has established a job bank where businesses receive referrals about potential employees, many of whom speak only minimal English.
Launching a business: A Chaldean Loan Fund is being created to help entrepreneurs start a small business.
In March 2011, RAST opened an office in Sterling Heights in Macomb County, where most refugees live. Included in the facility is a computer lab where individuals have access to free Internet services for educational, business, social and job searching purposes.
RAST is working on long-term solutions for the refugees who are here now, and is being proactive to the future needs of upcoming refugee populations. CAAHP’s Project Bismutha is also housed in the Sterling Heights office.