Date of Award

2018

Document Type

Poster Session

Department

Social Work

Advisor

Paula Gerstenblatt Ph.D.

Abstract

Asylum seekers are foreign nationals who enter the United States legally fleeing danger in their home country. Over 26,000 individuals were granted asylum in 2015, with 3.4% of the State of Maine’s population identifying as immigrants. Portland Maine’s General Assistance (GA) office reports nearly 40% of GA recipients were visa holders seeking asylum during fiscal year 2016. Asylum seekers arrive with psychological and physical burdens and then face hurdles trying to gain legal status while attempting to get their basic needs met in the social service systems. Organizations have been created on a grassroots level to provide support and bypass typical systemic obstacles. Welcoming the Stranger (WTS) is one of those organizations in Portland, Maine that matches friends (mentors) with asylum seeking (mentees) to help mitigate any barriers and bridge the gap for these newcomers. Existing research primarily combines asylum seekers and refugees in one category; therefore, more research is needed that focuses on the lived experiences of asylum seekers. This phenomenological study interviewed WTS mentees ages 18 and older and invited participants to create art collages as an additional way to convey their story. A bioecological perspective theoretical framework grounded the research to explore how participation with WTS may mitigate pressure on asylum seekers’ ecosystems. Research on the experiences of WTS mentees, both their challenges and successes, helps inform policy, practice, advocacy and program development.

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