Boise staff member, Lana Whiteford, is honored at the Third Annual Refugee Conference
Now in its third year the recently concluded Idaho Refugee Conference attracted more than 400 participants from throughout the State. The Conference has been a valuable resource for individuals who work with refugees. Through a variety of workshops offered by service providers and community partners centered on refugee integration, service providers and community partners share numerous practice experiences, tips and lessons learned.
This year’s Conference for the first time established an award program to recognize and honor individuals who have shown extraordinary dedication while serving refugees. Award categories included the following: an Idaho Refugee Champion Award, an Idaho Refugee Integration & Success Award, an Idaho Refugee Employer Award and an Idaho Refugee Resettlement Honor. The Resettlement Honor was awarded to Lana Whiteford, an IRC-Boise Employment Specialist. Before joining the IRC in 2007 Lana discovered the benefits of hiring refugees while working at the Boise airport for the HMS Host Company. As she often says to prospective employers, "hiring refugees at HMS Host helped improve the staff retention from negative 200% turnover to 28%”
Lana's personal knowledge and conviction about the unique strengths and talents of refugees has made her a strong and effective advocate for refugee rights in the workplace as well. Her co-workers at IRC in Boise call her a powerhouse: full of energy, incredibly well organized, generous and resourceful. Particularly noteworthy among her accomplishments is Lana's essential role in encouraging the Three Mile Canyon Dairy Farm in Boardman Oregon to take a chance and start hiring refugees. Although it was a completely new experience for the Farm it only took a few months for them to realize how hard working refugees are. Although the initial decision to place refugees in Boardman was occasioned by the decline in employment in Idaho it has turned out to provide many refugees with the opportunity to become self-sufficient in a very short period of time.
Lana's efforts, however, did not stop with merely finding employment for refugees in Boardman; she also began looking for ways to help refugees integrate into the Boardman community, which at the time had little experience dealing with refugees. She met with the Boardman City Council, the Police Department, the School District, landlords and local service providers, educating them regarding the needs and challenges of refugees and helping them to welcome and support their new neighbors. She continues to travel to Boardman to provide case management to refugees and meet with members of the Boardman community leaders. Her dedicated work with refugees has been recognized both locally and nationally as an innovator in job development. The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press have both published articles on her work. In presenting the award, Patty Haller of the Idaho Office for Refugees said, "Everything she does, she does well. And she does a lot!”