A woman from Bhutan works in the WORN project.
Aguirre and Diane Mitschke, assistant professors in UT Arlington’s School of Social
Work, have been conducting research in conjunction with the refugee
resettlement program of Catholic Charities Fort Worth.
set out to see if some women could be helped, and we discovered there might be
a fundamental problem with the way we handle refugees in this country,” Aguirre
said. “We observed a method of giving refugees
the ability to help themselves, and improve their mental health in the
began with 47 female refugees from Bhutan, a small country on China’s southern
border, who each had exhibited PTSD. Many of the women came from refugee camps
in Burma and Thailand, where they had sought safety to escape their own
women were divided into a control group and two intervention groups. The
control group received no assistance, while refugees in one intervention group
received 12 weeks of financial literacy classes.
in the other intervention group received 12 weeks of financial literacy classes
and participated in knitting scarves as part-time contract employees of
Catholic Charities’ WORN Project. WORN is a socially conscious business started
by Catholic Charities in 2011 to help refugees generate income.
three months, all members of the two intervention groups showed significant
improvement, and no longer met the criteria for PTSD in standardized
evaluations. The conditions in members of
the control group worsened.
said the startling results raise a moral issue. “Are we really making their
lives any better by just relocating them?” she said. “Our research indicates
programs like WORN can help transform lives.”
17 women who were empowered by knitting scarves for income experienced
surprising success, as sales nearly tripled original projections, the
has opened some doors and opened some eyes about what these refugees have to
offer,” Mitschke said.
intervention groups started with significant anxiety and depression, but
researchers found scores were significantly reduced through both types of
Typically, newcomers are provided with three
to six months of assistance, which may include financial help and other
services. However, following this initial period of resettlement, resources for
refugees are limited. UT Arlington’s research may have found a way to fill this
WORN program is one of nine projects under way at UT Arlington in the Innovative
Community-Academic Partnership Program. The program is
supported by a generous commitment from the Amon G. Carter Foundation. iCAP
links academic research with community partners who meet the needs of people on
a daily basis.
iCAP programs include Youth Offender Diversion Alternative, or YODA, an effort designed
to prevent family violence, and Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training,
or ASIST, which evaluates the impact of suicides in the military.
University of Texas at Arlington is a comprehensive research institution of
nearly 33,500 students in the heart of North Texas. Visit www.uta.edu
to learn more.