As Creighton University grad student and IPL Intern Cat Keating was beginning to discuss conflict resolution with a group of 10 refugee women from Burma at the Refugee
Women Leadership Academy in April 2015, one of the women asked through an interpreter, “what do you do when he won’t listen because he has been drinking?” This opened up a conversation that included both giggling and tears as women talked together, through an interpreter, about a taboo topic. The conversation continued for three sessions of the Refugee Women Leadership Academy and focused on what these women could do for themselves and their children.
At the third of these sessions, two OTOC leaders who are also involved in Alanon shared their experience, strength and hope and invited the women to consider developing their own support group in the Karen language. At the same meeting, Pam Franks who is part of the Refugee Health Collaborative, told the women how she is working with clergy from refugee serving churches start a program modeled on Alcoholic Anonymous for refugee men in Karen, Kareni and Nepali. This meeting brought hope to this group of refugee women who will be the core of IPL’s efforts to work with leaders of Omaha Together One Community (OTOC) who are organizing improve behavioral health care and support programs for families in Omaha.
Cat Keating wrote in her Practicum Spotlight that was published online by the Werner Institute: “ I would like to highlight the practicum that I did with a local community organizing group called the Institute for Public Leadership (IPL). My practicum is a great example of the way that my interests with international and cross cultural work could be paired with a look at engaging dispute resolution on a macro level. I worked with the lead organizer of IPL, Joe Higgs, on an initiative called the Refugee and Immigrant Women’s Leadership Academy.”
“Our goals were to bring refugee and immigrant women together to name issues that affect their lives. We then brought in local female leaders from the community to dialogue with the women about ways to effectively engage those issues in their lives. We also hoped to empower women to look at the systems and structures that underlie the issues and challenges that they face so that they can advocate for themselves, their families, and their communities in large and small ways…. The practicum helped me gain experience with macro conflict engagement techniques through community organizing. I saw how important it is to build relationships with people in order to empower them to voice their own needs and make changes in their own lives… I engaged women from many different cultures and countries, needing to use tips learned in my courses about cultural competency and working with people with varying conflict styles.”