Including Guests from the Community

A police officer speaking to refugees about community services during a cultural orientation class

An ongoing challenge of Cultural Orientation is how to keep participants engaged while focusing on the important key messages of Cultural Orientation. With so much vital information to convey in such little time, it is essential that providers keep the classroom active and dynamic. One strategy that experienced Cultural Orientation providers employ to keep participants engaged is to invite community guests, such as health providers, local educators, or the police, into the classroom to participate in sessions on topics related to their work.

What to Consider Before You Begin

Who is Involved?

Organizational leadership should be included from the planning stage to ensure that engagement with the community aligns with organizational strategy and policies, and that the overall implementation is appropriate. The Cultural Orientation provider will be instrumental in coordinating with organizational leadership, potential community guests, and interpreters to ensure that all parties are well-prepared and in agreement before implementation. Guests from the community can vary and should be selected based on specific goals. Interpreters may be needed while the community guest is presenting or interacting with a Cultural Orientation class. The interpreter should maintain the same standard of professionalism as with any other interpretation assignment.

Materials and Resources Needed

There are various documents that we recommend you prepare when inviting a guest from the community.

  • List of possible community guests, which can be used as a jumping-off point to engage with organizational leadership. In reviewing this list, community guests should be selected for specific Cultural Orientation-related purposes.
  • Template guide for community guest that will be attending the Cultural Orientation session. This guide might include tips for activities, enforce objectives of Cultural Orientation, provide overall background information about refugee resettlement, how to work with an interpreter, or other frequently asked questions.
  • Partnership outreach emails and agreements, which will help to cultivate positive partnerships and ensure that all stakeholders have a unified vision on the purpose for the community guests’ role in Cultural Orientation. Be sure to check with organization processes and protocols.
  • Post-Cultural Orientation documents, including thank you notes, or an equivalent, to provide to the community guest after the session, and feedback forms or other evaluative tools to document results.


In terms of preparing and implementing this promising practice, you will need to consider the time involved in engaging organizational leadership and cultivating potential community guests or partners. This will vary across organizations. Once a community guest has been selected, additional time should be factored in for preparing that individual, along with time for follow-up activities that will help to maintain the relationship and ideally improve future sessions.


Goal of Promising Practice

By inviting select community guests to Cultural Orientation you will be able to:

  • Reinforce key messages on select Cultural Orientation topics, thereby addressing Cultural Orientation Objectives and Indicators
  • Enhance learning and engagement with a focus on providing practical and relevant information to adult learners
  • Create a positive learning environment and ensure trust by introducing a guest of the community to refugees in the presence of a Cultural Orientation provider

Assess need

Slide Content

Practice in Action

At the Catholic Charities Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina, they use a range of community guests, including representatives from the local community college, the police department, healthcare professionals, and a speaker from Mental Health America, who provides an interactive and engaging presentation on the phases of cultural adjustment. HIAS has various offices that draw on community guests as a part of Cultural Orientation. For example, in Florida, through the University of Southern Florida, they have identified a Congolese professor in the school of public health who leads discussions with Congolese refugees around health and hygiene. Also, the Gulf Coast Jewish Family and Children’s Services office has an organization that comes in and teaches financial literacy as a guest. The same community organization expanded their partnership by offering more financial education for refugees outside of Cultural Orientation.

Tips for Success

The following are a list of tips and recommendations based on feedback collected from Cultural Orientation leaders as well as research on the engagement of the community in K-12 education.

  • Develop a shared vision by ensuring that all stakeholders involved agree and are clear on goals and objectives. This also includes setting clear expectations and evaluating these over time.
  • Build strong partnerships based on clear communication and trust. This may include reviewing existing partnerships to see what has or has not worked in the past.
  • Use targeted outreach when possible to ensure alignment with the developed shared vision, and as possible, focus on high-need areas.
  • Ensure structure for the community partner, in terms of how much time they have, what they may present and do during the Cultural Orientation session, or even help them prepare their session, if appropriate.
  • Address cultural differences between all stakeholders involved, particularly as this may be the first time for some community guests to engage with the refugee community.
  • Use this promising practice as an opportunity for professional development and to build your capacity as a Cultural Orientation provider, while ensuring that you have the appropriate buy-in from organizational leadership.