Interview with Sarah Antaya of the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island

Sarah Antaya, Refugee resettlement Program Manager for the DORCAS Institute


The following is an interview with Sarah Antaya of the Dorcas Institute which helps resettle refugees through a variety of means.

  • Basic needs assistance (housing, food, enrolling in schools, etc. )
  • Cultural orientation and skills building programs
  • Assistance accessing healthcare
  • English as a Second Language and Workforce education programs
  • Employment services (job training & placement)
  • Ongoing advocacy and case management to insure self-sufficiency

What do you do at the DORCAS Institute?

I manage the Reception & Placement part of the Refugee Resettlement program here at Dorcas International Institute (DIIRI). I supervise the caseworkers whose clients are new refugee arrivals; these caseworkers prepare for the arrival of refugee individuals and families. We then provide orientations and assist the refugee clients in a variety of ways during their initial 90-day period (called the Reception & Placement period).
What resources does Dorcas provide to refugees?
Dorcas provides comprehensive case management to refugee clients, which includes provision of initial housing, access to the Refugee Resource Center (for free clothing and some household goods and hygiene items), assistance with applying for government benefits, assistance with scheduling and attending medical appointments, referral to adult education (ESL) at our agency, assistance with registering children in public school/child care. Employable adults are provided with the assistance of a Career Developer in order to seek employment. Clients are provided with Cultural Orientation and ongoing case management when needed.
How do you view  public libraries?
I love the American public library system and I view it as a fantastic resource for all of us. I encourage utilization of the public library whenever possible.
Are libraries advocated to refugees as a resource for free learning (in the form of materials and classes), culture, and children’s classes and programs?


If Yes, How?

We don’t really have a formal, consistent way of recommending the library to our refugee clients as a resource. It generally comes up in a case-by-case way, depending on the needs/capabilities of the client.

Some of our ESL teachers have organized field trips for the adult students to the library – I’m not sure if that’s a regular thing. (and the ESL classes include refugees and non-refugees)

When we get volunteer tutors/mentors involved with refugee families, we definitely suggest the library as an activity idea.

And the library is mentioned as a community resource in the Cultural Orientation sessions conducted with all new arrivals (the amount of time devoted to it depends on the facilitator of the orientation).

If there were materials (like brochures about what the library offers, etc) in languages other than English/Spanish, it would certainly be easier to promote it.

The library provides free access to information to patrons on any topic and can provide resources to organizations in the community for help with health, education, housing and more, is the library advocated to refugees for these reasons?

Use of the public library is advocated informally by caseworkers and during cultural orientation as a community resource in general.  For some clients, use of the library may be challenging due to the language barrier.
Would you say that the DORCAS institute would be interested in forming a partnership with the local libraries in the areas where syrian and other refugees are placed?

Possibly.   I cannot speak for the agency as a whole, but we are always interested in pursuing ways to open up more resources to our refugee clients.

What things do you believe the library could offer that would appeal to the Syrian Refugees or be a useful resource to them?

More frequent ESL classes (or classes aimed specifically at our female clients, who are often unable to attend ESL class due to lack of child care). Also, if there was some sort of “orientation” offered, with interpreters, to refugee clients with very little English – this could be great.  The orientation could show clients how to make the most of the public library, even if they have little to no English ability. The public library may be a new concept to some refugee clients and accessing it may also intimidate clients who speak very little English.


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