The Refugee Response was founded in 2009 by two local Clevelanders, Mr. Paul Neundorfer and Mr. David Wallis.
In 2010 ground was broken on the Ohio City Farm in Cleveland's Historic West Side and the Refugee Response began to recruit mentors to support refugee students, established the REAP program and began to sell organically farmed fresh produce to some of Cleveland's best restaurants.
Now the Refugee Response supports over 700 refugees each year, provides opportunities for hundreds of Clevelanders to mentor and volunteer and supports over 25% of the annual budget from farm sales.
David Wallis and Paul Neundorfer, the founders of The Refugee Response, have travelled throughout Southeast Asia and Africa visiting and supporting refugee camp schools on the Thai Burma border, in Kenya, Cameroon, and Nepal. David and Paul along with friends and their families, worked with and helped to mentor resettled refugee families in Northeast Ohio for four years before completing research in 2009 to determine resettlee’s specific needs. TRR was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charitable organization in 2010 and developed the three initiatives currently still in place, the home mentoring program for youth, the scholarship program and the Ohio City Farm.
Many refugees were born in and have spent their entire lives in camps. Since 1975, the U.S. has accepted 2.6 million refugees, more than double the number of the nine other traditional resettlement countries combined. Nearly 80,000 refugees were resettled in 2009 alone.
Historically, the United States has welcomed refugees into the country recognizing their justifiable fear of persecution in their own country. Refugees legally enter the U.S. seeking freedom, peace and opportunity for themselves and their families. After resettlement, they start their new lives with limited resources knowing that they must transition from their past and the lives they once knew.
Resettled refugees are expected to acculturate, acquire English language skills and become self-sufficient within three months of arriving—a daunting task for many refugees. The Refugee Response (TRR) was formed to help refugees adjust to life in Northeast Ohio. Through our unique programs, we are working to empower our area's growing newcomer population, particularly those here between three months and five years by providing opportunities for them to learn the skills they need to succeed in their new communities.
The Refugee Response empowers resettled families to grow roots, supporting them in becoming engaged, self-sufficient and contributing members of their new communities.
The Refugee Response will be a local leader and a national model for innovative programming serving resettled families, utilizing our strong bonds with the local resettled community and our deep understanding of national and global refugee trends. TRR will have an increased qualitative impact on the lives of those we serve by ensuring their voices, skills, experiences, and knowledge are at the center of our decision making.
We believe in the importance of the resettled community and its unique contribution to the region and country. At the Refugee Response, we:
Respect diverse cultures
Provide high quality individualized education and personal support
Utilize multiple program strategies to support family success
Place the voices of resettled families at the center of decision making and programming
Believe that our services, in collaboration with refugee families, promote a better quality of life for the entire community