Giving and Leading: Refuge Café

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Arizona has taken in five to six percent of refugees in the United States, more than almost every other state. We’ll take you to the Refuge Café, a non-profit business helping refugees succeed in their new country.


Ted Simons: Tonight's edition of Arizona's giving and leading looks at state's refugee resettlement community, which takes in 5 to 6% of our nation's refugees. Producer Shana Fischer and photographer Langston Fields introduce us to a non-profit café that's helping refugees succeed in their new country.

Shana Fischer: From the outside there's nothing unusual about the refuge café. But step inside and look past the latte making and you will see what makes the café stand out.

John Strawn: We do have an unusual employee base here. It's unique for many restaurants. We have an at-risk training youth program which involve foster kids or young refugee kids.

Shana Fischer: Refugees like Amie Mukiza

Amie Mukiza: I was 18 years old when I left from Congo.

Shana Fischer: After leaving the Congo, he lived in several countries before making his way to the United States and Phoenix. The 18-year-old high school senior is living with a host family and working part time at the café.

John Strawn: And what we do is we teach them the soft skills and the work force, showing up on time, you know, reporting or communicating when they need time off as well. Budgeting their money. We teach them how to do interviewing. We work with them on their resumes and learn barista skills, kitchen skills, front of house and back of house, customer service.

Shana Fischer: It's his second week at the café. He's starting off washing dishes and keeping the café clean. He's also tackling baking. But more importantly he's learning skills that will help him down the road.

Amie Mukiza: I would be able to support myself as an 18-year-old and made too much. So I'm getting to the age where I need money.

Shana Fischer: Some employers may shy away from hiring refugees. But he says it's a win-win and he is happy to have a chance to prove what he can do.

Amie Mukiza: So I think hiring a refugee could be double. It's like helping someone and it's also knowing that you are working with someone who is interested to work.

Shana Fischer: Programs like the one at the refuge café are vital to a growing work force that includes young immigrants and foster kids who have aged out of the system. Instead of seeking handouts, these kids are being given a way up and out.

John Strawn: Most commonly when they have aged out of the system, they basically just get kicked out of the system. They're just left hanging. And they need some help. They have not had anyone teach them, you go to work, you work hard and things like that, that it takes to get by in life.

Shana Fischer: He will spend a few months at refuge café and then in the fall he will attend NAU. He has a lofty goal in mind.

Amie Mukiza: After university, I will be able to get my dream job. My dream job is to work in the United Nations.

Shana Fischer: And John is honored he and the café can be ingredients in his future success.

Amie Mukiza: I am proud of to be who I am and accepting the worst side of me and the best side of me.

Ted Simons: The refugee café is located near 7th avenue between Camelback and Indian School Roads. It's a division of Catholic charities.

Ted Simons: Friday on "Arizona Horizon" it's the Journalists' Roundtable. We will have more on Susan Bitter-Smith's decision to resign from the corporation commission. And as representative David Schweikert again considering a primary challenge to senator John McCain? That's on the Journalists' Roundtable. That's it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us.

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