RSC East Asia

Cultural Orientation Program Profile

The Resettlement Support Center (RSC) East Asia is operated by International Rescue Committee, which assumed the responsibilities of CO provision in October 2009. The program is headquartered in Thailand, with a sub-office in Malaysia.

Refugees: Target populations are mainly comprised of ethnic minorities who have fled persecution in Burma and are residing in Thailand and Malaysia. The ethnic groups targeted in Thailand include the Karen and Karenni, while the largest ethnic group targeted in Malaysia is the Chin. Members of the Burman, Kachin, Rohingya, and other ethnic groups are also served by the program, in both Thailand and Malaysia.

The program serves all ages, with specific curriculum for adults, youth and children. Childcare with specialized learning activities is provided for younger children to allow parents to participate fully in CO. Participant educational levels vary considerably; some participants have little or no formal education and are illiterate even in their first language, while others have attended secondary school and beyond. Exposure to Western culture also varies greatly with those resettling out of Kuala Lumpur generally having more exposure than those resettling out of the refugee camps in Thailand.

Training Sites: Burmese refugees are currently being resettled from all nine refugee camps along the Thai-Burma border:  Mae La, Umpiem, and Nupo camps in Tak Province, Tham Hin in Ratchaburi Province, Ban Don Yang in Kanchanaburi Province, and Mae La Oon, Mae Ra Ma Luang, Ban Mae Surin and Ban Mai Nai Soi in Mae Hong Son Province, the Karenni population coming primarily from Ban Mai Nai Soi. Training sites have been established in all but the two most remote camp locations, Mae La Oon and Mae Ra Ma Luang. Refugees from these two camps receive CO in the town of Mae Sot before departing for Bangkok. The urban caseload in Thailand receives CO instruction at the IRC Resettlement Support Center office in Bangkok. In Malaysia, training takes place in a CO facility in Kuala Lumpur.

Staff: CO Trainers, Senior Trainers, and other staff are located in two locations within Thailand (Mae Sot and Bangkok) and in Kuala Lumpur. Many Trainers are able to deliver CO in target languages. Trained interpreters are used when needed.

Course Particulars: Normal course length varies between 15 and 25 hours depending on logistics. Adult class size is typically from 15 to 25 students but varies depending on departures.  Children and Youth classes are generally limited to no more than 15 participants. Trained childcare staff care for younger children while parents are in CO.

Curriculum and Materials: Course content and curriculum are guided by a set of Key Points which are in line with the Welcome to the United States guidebook and established Overseas CO Objectives and Indicators. Trainers follow a list of required lessons but are able to supplement with other lessons and tailor each CO to the needs of the particular class. Welcome to the United States and other DVDs are used throughout CO as well as support picture sets and realia corresponding to specific lessons. Model kitchens and bathrooms are also available at several training sites in Thailand and in Kuala Lumpur. Participants receive a CO Handbook and a Picture Dictionary in either Karen or Burmese language when appropriate.

The training methodology used is learner-centered and highly interactive. Emphasis is placed on providing priority information in a way that encourages participation, critical thinking and a pro-active attitude. Lesson plans are designed to give opportunity for questions and sharing. Trainers also strive to increase participant awareness of potential cultural adjustments and to instill realistic expectations. Regular monitoring and observation is conducted to ensure quality and consistency in CO messaging and classroom facilitation.

Information Campaign: An Information Campaign designed to deliver accurate information about the resettlement process and life in the United States to refugee applicants has been in place since 2007. A joint effort with implementing partners, the Information Campaign also serves as a mechanism to stem erroneous information and rumors, and to combat fraud.

IRC RSC, UNHCR and IOM are available in camp locations on a monthly basis in Thailand to answer questions regarding resettlement. Information is provided through multiple streams including question and answer sessions, posters and brochures, and newly established listening centers to make information more accessible to those with low literacy skills. Avenues of communication in Malaysia have been expanded to include an inquiries e-mail account that enhances applicants’ ability to obtain information regarding the resettlement program and their case. Additionally, increased outreach with Community Based Organizations in Kuala Lumpur ensure that accurate information is available within refugee communities.