Friday Feature: Furries Meet Refugees

Furries meet Syrian refugees @ Higheradvantage.orgIf you’re feeling silly – like we are – this is a Friday Feature you’ll enjoy.

It’s a different take on refugee welcome and intercultural dialogue. Many things about North American culture are hard to explain, especially to newly arrived refugees.  This one definitely falls into that category.  Check it out for yourself.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

Friday Feature: 50 Years of Druze Music

Don't know why we're so excited to include an image of David Byrne? Google it!

Ah, David Byrne!

A free playlist highlighting the music of a Syrian ethnic minority.

Most of us don’t know much about the diverse religions, cultures – and music – of Syria. Here’s a collection of Druze music from DBRadio, an excellent podcast curated by David Byrne. Check it out for free here and learn a bit more here about the musician and Syrian-American family who helped compile the songs.

As with everything Syrian, Druze music and history are complicated. “The Druze are a small but influential community spread across Syria, Israel and Lebanon. Their faith, which dates to the 11th century, includes elements found in Islam, Christianity and Buddhism.” Read more in a Washington Post article.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

Religious Observance and Employment: Headscarves

Headscarf Employment Barriers @ higheradvantage.orgThrowback Thursday: a classic Higher blog post about a fundamental of our work.

Addressing religious beliefs that present barriers to employment is tricky.  Religious expression is personal and individual.

Finding the right balance between addressing potential barriers to employment and respecting religious freedom can feel uncomfortable, especially when speaking to someone with different beliefs than your own.

Click here to read a great TedTalk explanation of how headscarfs have become the symbol of a stereotype and the diverse motivations Muslim women feel for making their own choice about how to dress.  It will definitely help you understand, empathize and feel more comfortable talking to clients about this.

3 Talking Points You Can Use

Here are three practical talking points that will help you address barriers to employment around headscarfs in the workplace:

1. Women will not be forced to work with their heads uncovered or dressed in other ways that go against their beliefs.  Discrimination based on religion, nationality, gender or ethnic origin (among others) is illegal.

Click here to read the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s guidance on Religious Garb and Grooming in the Workplace: Rights and Responsibilities.

2. There are many legitimate reasons for employer concern that go beyond discrimination.  We can help address those.  Often, concerns are related to hygeine and safety because loose clothing and flowing scarves can get caught in equipment or dangle into food or cleaning chemicals. Safety laws protect workers and customers.  Employers are required by law to follow them.

3.  Shorter, more tailored headscarfs, often in colors matching uniforms are widely available.  You can work with employers to provide examples and even find online sources to order them.  This goes for uniform options like loose pants, long skirts or modesty aprons, too.

One Employer’s Experience and Solution

Employers need to ensure that all employees are treated fairly. If some are given special privileges to dress differently, others might see it as discrimination against them. Here’s an example of how one employer addressed the issue with Muslim employees and their colleagues:

When a hotel partner provided loose uniform pants, longer, more modest tops and matching headscarfs for Muslim women housekeepers, some of their non-Muslim colleagues complained. Previous requests for permission to wear pants, bandanas or baseball caps had been denied.  It didn’t seem fair that some colleagues received special privileges. The hotel invited an Employment Specialist (also a Muslim) to speak at a staff meeting about the basic tenets of Islam around women and clothing. They also requested help to identify a source of specialty uniforms.  We were able to ask another hotel partner to share their previous experience and solutions with the HR department. In the end, the hotel opened the option to wear uniform pants for all women housekeepers but continued to forbid any kind of head covering except for religious purposes.

(A great conversation with Church World Service colleagues motivated a new occasional series of posts to help address common issues we face around religious observance and U.S. workplace norms. Please get in touch to request topics or volunteer to contribute a guest post about some aspect of the topic, that will cover a number of religions, not just Islam.  Comment on this post or send email to information@higheradvantage.org and stay tuned for more.) 

 

Friday Feature: Syrian Refugees Parts 1 and 2: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee

samanthaTwo recent episodes of TBS’s Full Frontal with Samanta Bee are filmed in Jordan and New Jersey.  You can see refugee camps, urban refugee life and overseas pre-departure cultural orientation classes.  You’ll also see that the Syrians in these videos have kept their sense of humor despite what they’re going through.

Maybe you won’t want to share these with employers, as is the stated purpose of Friday Features. You’ll hear extreme sarcasm, cursing and politically-incorrect humor targeting many elected officials and hopefuls. They’re timely and hilarious, though.

Syrian Refugees Part 1: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS

Syrian Refugees part 2: Full Frontal with Samantha Bee on TBS

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

 

What’s it Like to Resettle Syrians? (A Higher video exclusive)

Learn about the Syrian refugee employment experience of Church World Service in Jersey City, NJ.  Thanks to Mahmoud Mahmoud, Office Director, who shared his experience during Higher’s Second Annual Refugee Employment Workshop in Omaha last November.  Hear his take on skilled trades, women in the workplace and more.

Friday Feature: Humans of New York

humansHumans of New York is featuring Syrian refugee pictures and stories in their own words on their daily blog.  Welcome to this future employment client in North Carolina from the December 6 post! .

Check them out. You can also find them on Facebook.  Share them to help quiet unfounded fears about resettling Syrians.

“I learned last Thursday that I’m going to a state called North Carolina. I’m very nervous. I know nothing about it. More than anything, I want to finish my education. But mostly I hope that whatever is waiting for me there is better than what I’ve gone through.”

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)

Syrian Refugee Employment: Facts and Characteristics

syrianwelcomeLearn several insights about some of the expectations and cultural differences we will need to consider when helping Syrians successfully enter the U.S. workforce. Syrians are as diverse as any client population we resettle, so these are only general observations and trends.

The information is summarized from expert presentations heard last week in Detroit, Michigan from a resettlement agency’s statistics and experience resettling 18 Syrian families, the Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM) and the Director of a program that works with refugees in Egypt, including Syrians.

First, a few statistics about the 2,290 Syrians resettled in the U.S. since 2011.

  • More than half (1,680) were resettled in the past fiscal year.
  • 59% are families (with at least one adult and at least one child).
  • 54% are under the age of 18. 1% are over the age of 65.
  • Less than 3% are single women-led households and less than 2% are single men not part of a family.
  • Less than 4% are Christians*

*Only 10% of all Syrians are Christian. Many live in relatively stable areas of the country and have chosen to remain. A significant number of those who did flee are in Lebanon, where the U.S. is not currently able to process refugees for resettlement in the U.S.

  1. Expectations and Technical Skills. Syrians have high expectations that they will be able to work in jobs that use their skills and training. Many bring experience and training in agriculture or skilled trades like construction, plumbing or electricity. We might find fewer professional certifications or advanced degrees than with other recent Middle Eastern populations we’ve resettled.
  1. Lifestyles and Quality of Life. Syrian heads of household are motivated to accept early employment so they can provide their families with a similar lifestyle to the one they were forced to leave behind. Across rural/urban settings as well as class and economic status, Syrians enjoyed a relatively high quality of life.
  1. Traditional Roles for Women. In general, women are not expected or accustomed to working outside of the home. The ability for them to play the role of homemaker is related to cultural values and perceptions of a high quality of life. Their educational attainment is likely to be less (middle school) than that of men (high school).
  1. English and Driving. Syrians are very aware of the importance of English language skills and the ability to drive for achieving the quality of life and success they want. They are motivated to learn these skills, which are not as common upon arrival as we might have expected.

 

Friday Feature: John Oliver on the European Refugee Crisis

TGIF and Happy New (fiscal) Year! Take a coffee break and check out some amazing satire on the handling of the refugee crisis in Europe from HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

You may also be interested in learning more about Nageen Mustafa, the inspirational 16-year-old refugee woman featured in the clip who made the journey from Syria to Germany in a wheelchair, loves the Days of Our Lives soap opera, and hopes to be an astronaut someday. You can learn more about her story here and here.

Friday Feature: Syrian Refugee Puppy

Refugees are just like us. They love their pets, too.

Friday Feature: Khebez Dawle (Syrian)

Khebez DawleWhen their drummer was killed, the remaining members of Khebez Dawle (State Bread) fled Syria.  So far, they’ve passed through Lebanon and Turkey and are thinking about where next.

Read about their journey and hear music they were never allowed to perform in public in Syria.

(On occasional Fridays, we highlight one entertainment option related to our clients or some aspect of our work to help you celebrate the weekend and possibly recommend to employers and other community supporters in the following week.)