Tuesday, January 22, 2008


Being headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia, we are extremely fortunate to be able to participate in the Martin Luther King Jr. Day march in downtown Atlanta.

We had our choice of issue groups to march with. Personally, I told the right to healthcare access group, the peace and justice group, and the stop family violence group that I would march with them.

In the end we marched with the stop family violence group down Peachtree Street and Auburn Avenue to the MLK Center.

It was cold, close to freezing, but we all stood in the cold, waiting for the march to pass by, and then joining in. The street was lined with people and it was an incredible feeling to be part of something huge and global. This was a national day dedicated to social justice, where groups of activists in nearly every city marched, raising signs, voices, and issues that need to be addressed. And doing so peacefully, with no danger of retaliation.

Working with refugees and asylees, we know that such public demonstrations are not possible or safe in many other countries and often end in officially sanctioned violence.

Here in the US, we do have the opportunity, and the right, to raise our voices and cast our ballots and yesterday's march was a wonderful reminder and reinvigorated us for our work.

As they say, MLK Day is not a day off, it's a day on.

Partnership with Local Bank Brings Economic Opportunities for Refugee & Immigrant Women

Refugee Women’s Network has developed a financial partnership with Decatur First Bank, tripling loan availability for its participants. Refugee Women’s Network (RWN) is a national non-profit organization, based in Decatur, GA that enhances refugee and immigrant women's strength and skills by providing trainings in microenterprise development. In this partnership, RWN is the point of contact for refugee and immigrant women seeking business loans. Eligible borrowers will be selected by RWN and referred to Decatur First Bank for loans. Since 2005, RWN has been providing microloans to refugee and immigrant women in amounts ranging from $250 to $15,000. With partnership with Decatur First Bank, RWN will be able to provide up to $30,000 in individual loans.

Decatur First Bank is a full service community bank locally owned and managed, dedicated to the needs of area residents and businesses. All Bank decisions are made locally and funds reinvested in the community.

Refugee Women’s Network, through its Microenterprise Program, has been providing refugee and immigrant women with business plan training, marketing and other services to entrepreneurs who are starting, strengthening or expanding their businesses. Typically, the first time borrowers of RWN loans are refugee and immigrant women who have been in the country for a few years, do not have a credit history in this country and thus are not able to receive loans from traditional sources. RWN makes loans based on character of the person and to date has a zero percent loan default rate. Many refugees and immigrants reside in DeKalb County and as a result have opened up businesses in the Decatur-DeKalb area. Some of the businesses that have sprung up include restaurants and catering services, retails shops, event halls, child care, beauty salon and more. Partnerships like RWN and Decatur First Bank are not only important for helping newcomers to Georgia find firm footing, but also to boost the local economy.

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About RWN
Refugee Women’s Network is a national non-profit organization created by women, for women, that focus on enhancing refugee and immigrant women's strength, skills, and courage, through leadership training, education and advocacy to promote independence, self-sufficiency, and networking among its participants since 1995. Its programs include leadership development, microenterprise, health promoters and advocacy. Refugee Women's Network is governed and staffed by refugee and immigrant women from Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Americas. For more information on RWN, log onto http://www.riwn.org/

Monday, January 7, 2008

Good news for the beginning of the new year

Here’s some good news to start 2008 with.

RWN has finalized a partnership with a local bank that will double the amount of loan funds available for our microenterprise program participants.

A more formal announcement will be forthcoming, but it's such good news I did want to post about it sooner rather than later.

Essentially, RWN will make the first loan to the entrepreneurial client. Upon successful repayment of that first loan, we will refer that client to the bank for subsequent loans of up to $30,000.

We are very excited about this, because this moves clients into a relationship with a mainstream bank, it builds the clients’ credit histories (RWN does not make the minimum of 500 loans a year to be able to report to the credit bureaus), and it enables us to use our loan funds to serve new clients.

Most of all, it is a business partnership with a mainstream financial institution. This bank entered this agreement because it makes good business sense to them. They also know that we will do the initial vetting and since RWN's microloan program has a zero default rate, they feel comfortable working with our clients.

It is also reinforces what we've know all along -- refugee and immigrant women are rebuilding their lives, supporting their families, and growing the US economy. Refugee and immigrant women entrepreneurs are part of the economic engine of the US!

What a great way to start the new year!

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Happy New Year!

It's 2008 and we have big plans for this year. These are the big events we will be having this year:

  • Strengthening Georgia: Policies that Support Refugees’ Path to Becoming New Americans -- January 30, 2008, Decatur, Georgia. The forum will include a survey of refugees in Georgia; government & business leaders’ perspectives on integrating refugee newcomers to Georgia; ground breaking policy efforts in other states to ensure the successful integration of newcomers; and refugee, policy maker and academic perspectives on emerging issues such as public education for Limited English Proficient students and the potential impact of an English Only rule for Georgia. Contact Satyam Barakoti at info@riwn.org for more information.

  • National Conference for Refugee and Immigrant Women -- to be held in Fall 2008. It's our biggest event of the year and we're aiming for an attendence of 350 women from across the US. We're working on the date and place, and will post about it as soon as those are secured.

  • National Health Promoter Leadership Training of Trainers -- again, dates yet to be determined, but in all likelihood in the first half of the year. Click here to go to our website and read about the National Health Promoter Leadership Training of Trainers we conducted in 2007.
In the Atlanta area, we will be training a new cohort of local health promoters to educate new refugees about healthy living in their new community, and continue working with our microenterprise clients to start, expand, or strengthen their own businesses.

We strive to keep RWN relevent to the lives of refugee and immigrant women as they are lived now in the US. If you have any suggestions or comments, please do contact us at http://www.riwn.org/contact_rwn or leave comment on the blog.

Happy New Year!