Justin Confalone, SVR Volunteer interview with
RAMP program manager (Paige) and Journey’s End community outreach director (Kathy Spillman)
April 22, 2021
The interview with RAMP program manager (Paige) and Journey’s End community outreach director (Kathy) was an incredible look into a program taking real, actionable steps into a better future for asylum seekers, asylees, and refugees alike. Journey’s End adopts a total aid model to their work, and, from picking incoming refugees from the airport to education to community integration, the organization does its best to support refugees during their early steps in America. The RAMP program in particular focuses on community integration, academic support, career development, and health/financial literacy. Despite having so many services, Journey’s End goes the extra step to meet the specific needs of its mentees, and, if for whatever reason those needs cannot be met, has a network of partners who the mentee will be referred to. At the heart of the RAMP program is the relationship between mentee (refugees, asylees, SIV holders) and the mentors (volunteers from every walk of life) which is designed to provide refugees with a home base of sorts within the country. Many mentors/mentees do 1 on 1 calls as a supplement to the 1 hour/week group meetings, further building that sense of kinship. There is no limit to the amount of time mentees can stay in the program – and some have been in the program from its very beginning a little over a year ago. RAMP achieves a balance between practical advice and field trips meant to build a sense of community for mentees within the Buffalo area.
Benchmarks of success within RAMP are very specific and tend to be based on the needs of each mentee involved. Typical benchmarks include improving language skills, graduating high school, gaining access to higher education, making new friends, and any other move towards being independent and self-sufficient. For example, the meeting that took place the week of our interview was all about strategically saving money while the meeting the week after was an ice-skating trip. Language tends to be one of the larger challenges of the RAMP program – especially since Buffalo has a very diverse refugee population and with some of the less-known languages, interpreting can be difficult. Additionally, the transition from in-person to virtual meetings brought on by Covid-19 was a major roadblock for the program, but I got the impression that RAMP had found its rhythm virtually by the time of our interview.
In terms of helping refugees in higher education, both Paige and Kathy agreed that the most important steps for members of university communities to take is to reach out to local populations and those working on the ground, learn cultural competency, and enable student advocates to form a kinship with refugee populations on campus.
Meet SVR Volunteer, Justin Confalone
Justin Confalone (He/His) is pursuing a dual Bachelor’s degree in Communication and Cultural Anthropology at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Prior to joining SVR, he conducted much research on refugee populations and the humanitarian frame. Additionally, Justin has done much work in the non-profit sector. The most recent of which is his internship at Neighborhood Rescue of America: a public safety organization that provides education to children in high crime areas of the United States. Going forward, he hopes to pursue a career in International Development or Human Rights Law, two of his passions.