Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona Relaunches Refugee Resettlement Services (Update)

(l/r) – Omed Isam (Case Manager), Christian Hirwa (Program Manager), and Sofia Herran (Intensive Case Manager)

Jewish Family & Children’s Services of Southern Arizona (JFCS) is thrilled to reinitiate its Resettlement Services. For 18 years, JFCS helped newly arrived refugees settle into the Tucson community, and with the arrival of Afghan refugees to our community, the organization relaunched and expanded its refugee services this past fall. JFCS anticipates serving 150 refugees annually through four specific programs. Reception and Placement services are paid for, in part, through financial assistance provided by the Department of State. Services include:

Afghan Placement and Assistance: This program serves Afghan refugees who received special status thanks to their service to the American government in Afghanistan.

Reception and Placement: This program offers wrap-around support to refugees from many other countries around the world, such as assistance with finding housing, schools for children, medical services, employment, and cultural/community services.

Preferred Communities: Many refugees have challenging needs that require intensive or long-term services. These could include those with medical conditions, older adult refugees, single parents with children, those who have experienced extreme trauma, or refugees with other needs. The Preferred Communities program means that those who may need additional support to find their way in a new community will have access to intensive case management for 12 months.

Matching Grant: This employment support program helps place refugees into sustainable employment quickly. Through Matching Grant, refugees participate in job training, such as certifications and mock interviews, connect to employment resources in the community, and receive support such as transportation to job interviews and English language practice with volunteers.

JFCS is pleased to again be working in partnership with HIAS, the Global Jewish Organization for Refugees. HIAS has resettlement agencies in 24 cities in the U.S. and other nations worldwide. From 1989 to 2007, JFCS welcomed refugees to Tucson, many of whom were Russian Jews fleeing antisemitism in the former Soviet Union. The full-service Refugee Resettlement Services began with picking families up from the airport and transporting them to housing that JFCS secured and furnished for them. Over the following three months, JFCS helped families make medical appointments, establish employment, and attend school. For many, JFCS staff were the first friendly faces in Tucson. Those they served found support from the Jewish and broader community in Tucson that would last a lifetime.

New Refugee Resettlement Program Manager

JFCS has welcomed a new Refugee Resettlement Program Manager, Christian Hirwa, to their staff. Christian’s years of experience working with refugees in Tucson and his personal experiences as a refugee make him an excellent match.

Christian and his family were harassed and persecuted for political and ethnic reasons in his homeland of Rwanda. For their safety, they fled to Kenya where they spent 15 difficult years. As refugees, his family was denied assistance and lacked employment and education opportunities. Finally, Christian and his family were able to move to Tucson. They encountered culture shock, language barriers, and other obstacles in their resettlement journey, but these factors did not deter the family from chasing their dreams.

Now, Christian is a leader within the refugee resettlement community, inspiring countless families. He devotes his personal and professional experience to newly arrived refugees so that the Tucson community is prepared to welcome them, and refugees can become contributing members of society. Christian supervises a growing team of Refugee Resettlement Services staff at JFCS who will implement each of the four services through their specialized skills.

Many of us have been following the news wondering, “How can I help?”

Monetary donations and volunteer time are important donor contributions. Home furnishings are also being accepted by JFCS. For more information, contact Christian Hirwa by email at or by phone at (520) 795-0300 x2281.