As you drive through Pelion, South Carolina, you see the typical farmland that one finds in the rural South. There, you also find one of the most well-known farms in our state, WP Rawls Farms. What many don’t see, though, is the numerous refugees who are employed at this farm through an effective partnership with Lutheran Services Carolinas.
Lutheran Services Carolinas, a Foundation Immigrant Families Initiative grantee, serves children, adults and families across North and South Carolina. LSC offers many services, but the Foundation funds its Refugee Employment Program. With the help of volunteers, donors and faith partners, LSC provides welcome and support to refugees seeking sanctuary. It is with this program that LSC helps refugees rebuild.
“Last year, LSC served 282 refugees in S.C. One of the most important components to helping refugees rebuild new lives in a new country is to help them find meaningful employment,” Bedrija Jazic, Service Team Leader for Refugee and Immigrant Services, said. “Not only does achieving steady employment help refugee families move themselves out of poverty, it also gives them back a sense of control of their own lives and assists them with becoming integrated into their new communities.”
LSC has used their funding from the Foundation to support pre and post-employment education, such as interviewing skills, completing job application paperwork and navigating the workplace culture, as well as the agency’s continuous work towards building an ever larger pool of potential new employers in the Midlands and Charleston areas to enable more refugees to find suitable jobs within a shorter time frame. LSC has found a successful partnership with WP Rawls Farms.
“We have found safe and steady employment for the refugees we serve at Rawls Farms. We know that they are facing all sorts of challenges having to acclimate to a new language and a new culture, but finding steady employment is an important piece to them becoming self-sufficient,” Dylan Gunnels, Employment Specialist for LSC, said.
Representatives from LSC and the Foundation visited WP Rawls Farms to tour the facility where the refugees work and to hear from WP Rawls Farm about the partnership. Most of the refugees who are working in packaging and sorting at the farm in Pelion are from Africa, specifically from Democratic Republic of the Congo. There was a lot to learn from this site visit, but what is most clear after the visit is that the refugees who are there love LSC, and are happy at WP Rawls Farms.
“Human Resources and the whole organization truly cares about its people,” Phillip Reynolds, an administrator at WP Rawls Farms, said. “It’s important to the Rawls family that everyone working here is better off for it whether that be through access to medical care, financial coaching or educational opportunities. We want to offer that for our employees.”
“WP Rawls Farms does look out for these refugees. For example, most of them come from a very warm climate and work where it has to be cold, so they are looking for new ways to keep our people comfortable. Also, transportation is a big issue, so the farm hired a van and driver to help,” Gunnels, said.
LSC does frequent follow-ups with the clients they place in employment. This follow-up meeting is where the client is able to speak up about what is working or not working about their placement. A LSC representative said that those who work at WP Rawls Farm are very vocal about their approval.
“There is a community of Congolese in the U.S. and they certainly talk about the best and worst places to work,” Gunnels, said. “The talk made it all the way to a community in Florida, and now the S.C. community has grown. Our follow-ups are good, but for the refugees, word of mouth is even better.”
If you have any questions about this partnership or want to know more about the Refugee Employment Program, visit LSC’s website here.