Let’s Not Waste What Refugees Can Add to Our Communities

 A recent event at Cuyahoga Community College changed my views on refugees. I thought, like many other Americans, that refugees come to the United States with very few valuables, many challenges and more needs than gifts for their new homeland.  That view changed when I sat at a table with four refugees at TRI-C.  I quickly learned that three of the four were from Iraq and all were professionals – a physicist, a lawyer and a teacher.  The fourth refugee, a man from Afganistan, had been an interpreter for the American military.  


 I was humbled to meet these brave people who have no doubt experienced numerous hardships leaving their homeland to build a new home in Cleveland.  Though less than five percent of refugees come with professional credentials, I was impressed by what these and other refugees have to offer. Their talents, education and experience can help strengthen our local economy.  But according to directors of four of the five ABLE (Adult Basic Language Education) programs in Cuyahoga County, international high-skilled talent is being wasted in Northeast Ohio because professional foreign workers are unable to find training programs and services to teach them the language and cultural skills they need to complete job applications and communicate in job interviews.

 That’s where Global Cleveland comes in.  The organization is not only working to increase the number of refugees assigned to Cleveland by the Federal government, but also to eliminate barriers preventing refugees and other international newcomers from connecting to jobs.  As a member of the Refugee Services Collaborative, Global Cleveland encourages refugees to invite their friends and family who may be living in other U.S. cities to migrate to Cleveland.  This secondary migration can increase Cleveland’s population and add even more talent to our workforce.

 On September 30th, Cleveland City Councilman Joe Cimperman hosted a Refugee Summit at City Hall.  The Councilman wanted to inform his colleagues and other city officials about the positive economic impact refugees have in Cleveland and the services and programs that assist them in setting into their new home.  We should all applaud Council Cimperman’s leadership.  He understands that refugees increase Cleveland’s population, add needed talent and skills to the local workforce and provide rich cultural benefits to the community.  I hope you will welcome any refugees you may meet and tell them how glad you are there are here.

Best wishes this Holiday season!



Joy Roller


President, Global Cleveland