Refugee Health and Employment Attainment Program (RHEAP)

RHEAP helps Iraqi refugees adjust to life in our community by teaching skills for getting and keeping jobs, developing healthier lifestyles, and improving their English.  Its weekly evening sessions are made possible by many volunteers from our area's Iraqi and American-born communities.


2010: RHEAP started as a Vocational English Language program.  Entirely volunteer-run, the program provided formal ESL classes followed by one-on-one tutoring, and mixed practical job hunt skills-building with English instruction.


2011: RHEAP expanded in order to address refugees' health-related needs and become more accessible to women. The program is now family focused with programs for adults and their children, and includes healthy living education and activities integrated into the Vocational ESL classes.


2012: Opening Doors, the UC Davis Clinical and Translational Science Center, and the Mesopotamia Organization conducted a joint investigation assessing the current health conditions and barriers to treatment faced by Sacramento-area Iraqi refugees. The collaborative, community-based study released preliminary results concerning the specific mental and physical health conditions of the growing Iraqi refugee community within the area.
Read the full Iraqi Refugee Health Needs Assessment here.



Evenings at RHEAP:

  • One-hour session lead by volunteer, certified ESL instructors working with beginner, intermediate, and advanced English learners.
  • Health education component, conducted in Arabic by a well-known Iraqi health educator.  Lessons help refugees examine their diet, exercise, and other habits and develop healthier ways of living. 
  • Dinner prepared by participants, who implement the new healthy methods they have just learned.
  • One-on-one sessions with refugee adults and volunteer tutors to work on specific communicational needs. Beginners may practice basic survival English while the more advance may receive help with their resumes and practice with mock interviews. This personalized tutoring experience allows refugees to practice their speaking skills and build up their confidence.
  • Children are offered a separate program in which they participate in healthy-living activities and learn about healthy habits. Kids also receive help on homework that they may not otherwise be able to get from their parents who haven't yet mastered English.
  • Iraqi refugee youth participate as RHEAP volunteers, assisting the younger children, helping with food preparation and serving, and working as English tutors for beginning ESL adults