UNHCR Visits Charlottesville
3 December 2009 – Last week, a delegation of resettlement officers from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as well as key staff from IRC headquarters, visited the IRC resettlement office in Charlottesville, Virginia. While attending the Fifth Annual Refugee Admissions Workshop in DC, hosted by the State Department’s Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, the group made the day trip to Charlottesville to learn about IRC’s programs for refugees and speak to refugees about their experiences and opinions about the resettlement process.
From the UNHCR, the delegation included Vincent Cochetel, head of Resettlement Services for UNHCR headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, who has worked all over the world for the UNHCR for over 20 years. He was accompanied by Helen Morris, Senior Resettlement Officer in Beirut Lebanon, and Jeff Savage, a Resettlement Officer in Dadaab, Kenya, as well as staff from the UNHCR office in Washington. From the IRC, Charlottesville welcomed Kay Bellor, IRC Vice President for US Programs, and Bob Carey, IRC Vice President for Migration Policy.
The delegation arrived in Charlottesville at 11 A.M. and toured the IRC office before sitting in on a job readiness class for Bhutanese refugees. Mr. Cochetel led a question and answer session with the refugees, asking them what they wish they had known before being resettled, and answering their questions of the UNHCR. Executive Director Susan Donovan then led the group on a tour of refugee-owned businesses on the Downtown Mall—Marco and Luca’s, and Alma and Mela Hair Salon. The delegation lunched at the Balkan Bakery, owned by a refugee family from Bosnia, where they were joined by Karen, Somali Bantu, and Iraqi refugees.
In the afternoon, the delegation stopped by the Omni Hotel, which has a large workforce of refugees working in various departments from housekeeping to the front desk, and visited a refugee family at home. Ms. Donovan and key Charlottesville staff briefed the group on IRC programs, and then honored the group with a reception attended by IRC donors and volunteers, and Mayor Dave Norris.
“It is always an honor to welcome our colleagues who save refugees’ lives overseas,” said Ms. Donovan of the visit. “We are grateful for the opportunity to introduce them to refugees who have now made Charlottesville their home.”