Humans of Cranston: Justin Bibee

Posted 3/13/24

Humans of Cranston is a recurring column showcasing the stories of Cranston community members’ community involvement, diversity, and unique life perspectives.

Justin Bibee is the Assistant …

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Humans of Cranston: Justin Bibee


Humans of Cranston is a recurring column showcasing the stories of Cranston community members’ community involvement, diversity, and unique life perspectives.

Justin Bibee is the Assistant Director for the Refugee Resettlement Department at the Dorcas International Institute of Rhode Island and a 2024 Global Fellow at the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Studies at Brown University.

My work with refugees really started with my passion for human rights. First, I wanted to be a Rhode Island State Trooper, and that’s what I went to school for. I went to CCRI, I got my associate degree in law enforcement, and I continued my education at RIC and got my bachelor's degree in justice studies. I was in a class my senior year of RIC called Corrections about correctional facilities, and I learned about the recidivism rate of people going back to prison and how high that percentage was. Taking that class really made me focus more on human rights violations and human rights, and I decided to pursue my master’s degree in the Peace Corps rather than the Police Academy. I applied for my master’s degree and got invited to SIT, the School for International Training in Brattleboro, Vermont, a very small private school specifically for people that want to work internationally, and then as part of my master’s degree program, I was a Peace Corps volunteer, so I was a master’s international student.

I went to the Peace Corps for three years there and taught English, but during my master’s degree, my first time working with refugees was in research. This was 2014, Vermont was about to get a big resettlement of Syrian refugees, and there were some debates going on in Vermont, so my first real work with refugees was conducting research for the small town that was going to resettle them, and addressing people’s concerns and hopes and fears. I started off conducting research on resettlement, and then, as a master’s student, I had a lot of fellow students and even teachers who were refugees themselves, so I also interacted with refugees that way. Then, as part of my PhD thesis, I was studying peace education as a peacebuilding tool, and I used the Western Sahara conflict as my case study, so I worked with Sahrawi refugees, as well.

I supervise the entire Resettlement Department at Dorcas International, so we have refugee resettlement case managers, we have a medical case manager, and we have case aides who help the case managers, and I support them with everything they do, which is they literally picking up clients from the airport and putting them into housing. Refugees unfortunately arrive homeless and poor. We solve their homelessness day one; we put them into permanent housing, but they continue to live in poverty, and they’re going to continue to live in poverty until they’re able to climb themselves out. There’s only so much we can do to make them self-sufficient, and surviving and thriving are two different things, but we always strive to help our clients thrive. The team picks up refugees day one from the airport, gets children into school, adults into education, adults into work, helps with all the benefits like SNAP benefits, Medicaid health insurance, any kind of cash assistance that they’re eligible for, so I’m really just supporting my team to support refugees through their whole resettlement process, which is just a 90-day process. ... We help and support clients with anything and everything, from homelessness to divorce cases.

One of my refugee clients goes to Brown University. We had twelve refugee girls from Afghanistan that all went Brown University, because they were at another sister university in Turkey, so she was on my caseload when she first came, and now, she’s doing so well at Brown. She got accepted full-time, full-ride, and she’s majoring in business as well as global studies, and she started a non-profit called BaleParvaaz for which I serve on the board of directors. That’s something I’m really proud of too, because never mind the work she’s doing, but the fact that I met her as a client refugee, now she’s no longer a refugee, she’s no longer on my caseload, and we’re friends and even co-workers, she’s doing amazing work. BaleParvaaz is literally an underground school; it’s a clandestine school in Afghanistan. It’s all girls and we have two male teachers, and we have mentors here in Rhode Island – actually, all over the United States, mostly in New England – and we just practice English with them and raise funds for these girls to get accepted into universities abroad. We’ve already had a couple of girls leave, so one girl went to China for university, and I think another girl went to Peru for university. We’re funding a clandestine school in Afghanistan, and we’re also at the same time applying and funding for girls to go to universities abroad, and it’s successful so far.

I look at Cranston, and we have a small-town feel, but I don’t think it’s just Cranston, I think it’s Rhode Island, because in another state it’s like, small-towns, small-towns, but I think almost every town in Rhode Island can have that feeling. It’s funny, because my mom is still best friends with her childhood best friends, and I think that’s something that’s special in Rhode Island and for me, specifically Cranston, because that’s something I experienced when I grew up. Like, how many uncles do I have because they’re just my mom’s childhood friends that are still here? I grew up calling them uncles, and they’re still my uncles! And me too; my first friend ever from pre-school is still my best friend to this day. Literally, my first friend ever in my life is still my best friend today, I just saw him last week. So, that’s something that’s special, just that small-town feel, but for us it’s like a small state feel, like, I think we all kind of have that feeling. ... I just grew up with so many awesome people, they were such a great part of my life that molded me into the person that I am today, and that person is an empathetic, approachable person. I get that feedback a lot, and that’s feedback I really take pride in.

The second season of this project has been made possible by the Rhode Island Department of Health and the efforts of the OneCranston Health Equity Zone of Comprehensive Community Action, Inc. in partnership with the Cranston Herald and Timothy McFate. The opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of Humans of Cranston participants do not necessarily reflect the opinions, beliefs, and viewpoints of the aforementioned parties. The presented stories are voluntarily provided, unpaid, and given verbatim except for correcting grammatical errors.  

Want to nominate a Cranston resident to be featured? Email JB at jfulbright@comcap.org.

humans, Bibee, refugees


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