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Catholic Charities Corporation Administrative Offices:

7911 Detroit Avenue
Cleveland, OH 44102

(216) 334-2900

Migration & Refugee Services Ohio Center for Survivors of Torture

Posted June 26, 2024

In this fiscal year over 14,000 refugees have come to the United States in hopes of starting a new life according to the Refugee Council USA.

The Migration and Refugee Services (MRS) office here at Catholic Charities offers the Ohio Center for Survivors of Torture (SOT) program that helps refugees get the services they need but also helps work through any trauma they have faced before coming to the U.S.

“Many people that were coming for these services [at MRS] were survivors of torture, but couldn’t access traditional social service programs due to their legal status,” Program Director at MRS MaryKate Blankenship said.

The SOT program involves two other programs within MRS: Immigration legal services and social services.

“They [Immigration Legal Services] really process most survivors… our social service team, which we have caseworkers, social workers, and lots of different other kind of specialists that work with our survivors,” MaryKate said.

One addition that was made to this program was having two licensed therapists visit the MRS office every week to meet and speak with clients if needed.

“They [clients] are getting real behavioral/mental health services without struggling with access or financial assistance…They just get to come and start really working on their trauma.” MaryKate said.

One client from this program has expressed her gratitude to everyone who has helped her through this journey, especially her attorney.

“I want to thank everybody and especially Mrs. Sanchez [attorney] who was here for me and if I need anything, she’s right there to help me out.” SOT client, Aminata Sangare said.

Earlier this year Aminata won her asylum case and the emotions she felt are something she’ll remember forever.

“When I’ve been granted [asylum status], I cry a lot and she [Mrs. Sanchez] cried too,” Aminata said, “That was a wonderful moment, sharing that time with her. She’s going to stay in my memory forever.”

The SOT program at Catholic Charities is currently the only one of its kind in the state of Ohio and has served 316 refugees this fiscal year.

“We have the Ohio Center for Survivors of Torture at Catholic Charities, which means we’re the only ones in Ohio… and this fiscal year alone, we’ve served 316 survivors,” MaryKate said.

This program has helped so many people since it began in 2016, and the people who have gotten assistance are forever grateful.

“I just pray [to] God for her [Mrs. Sanchez] like the good things she done to people, to give her health and everything to keep doing that because she’s doing—you can see, comes from her heart” Aminata said.

MaryKate and her team are continuously getting new referrals and information on stories that they can help with, and she would like to remind people about one thing.

“Them [refugees] coming here is the last resort and it wasn’t their first choice,” MaryKate said, “If we as a community can come together and just be kind and open up what we can to them that just makes our community much richer…”

If you or someone you know needs immigration legal assistance or has experienced trauma overseas click the button below to view a full list of programs offered through the Migration and Refugee Services Office.

Migration and Refugee Services

Catholic Diocese of Cleveland Part of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland

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