With the number of Afghan refugees expected to increase in central Ohio, one organization is looking to Otterbein for interns and help.
CRIS, Community Refugee and Immigration Services, is a non-profit organization that serves and relocates the refugee and immigration populations in Central Ohio.
“Just this week we are welcoming 56 individuals into Columbus,” said Jeremy Hollon, the associate director of community partnerships and a youth mentor for CRIS. In total, CRIS is welcoming 356 Afghan individuals and many of them are already here, Hollon said.
“We know just about everything about these families,” Hollon said. “They have been heavily background checked, they go through screenings, they are going through all sorts of different things while they are still abroad before they are even allowed to come here.” In some cases, the process can be delayed, or families can have their cases rejected.
Current Otterbein sports management junior Riley Philhower became a student volunteer at CRIS last spring. “After researching CRIS, I really believed in what their organization is about and their mission to help refugees relocate in Columbus,” Philhower said. This is why he chose to become a student volunteer.
Philhower also organized a fundraising event for CRIS, the third annual Columbus Nations Cup, which raised more than $21,000.
Philhower is set to begin an internship with CRIS this coming spring and hopes to reestablish the partnership between Otterbein University and CRIS. He said his goal for this internship is to increase engagement and awareness within Otterbein.
“I want to talk more to Otterbein professors because they are going to be here the longest and they will be able to educate incoming students,” he said. “I think talking to them will have a bigger and better impact on creating awareness.”
Otterbein communication professor Nichelle McNabb has also volunteered for CRIS. “CRIS contacted us a couple years ago because they wanted to create a speakers bureau,” McNabb said. Refugees could then speak to members of the community about their personal journeys.
“They wanted someone to work with them on their speeches,” McNabb said. Besides helping them construct speeches, she was also impacted by the refugees she met.
“Listening to the stories that they tell of their experience I think most people don’t know what they go through. I also met some people who couldn’t tell their stories because it was so horrible,” McNabb said.
CRIS Director of Development and Engagement Tyler Reeve said in a phone call that CRIS offers internship opportunities each semester that could include peer mentoring, non-profit work, and digital marketing and communication.