Imagine: You have grabbed your family and a few possessions and have fled your home and your country. You have traveled by foot, by train, by dinghy, by any means you could buy and have escaped to freedom. You have lived for years in a refugee camp, in tents, with others who have fled. However, you had to maintain your guard to survive the crowding, illness and threats from others. You are among those who have passed the screening exams to be accepted into the United States. You imagine a better future for yourself and your family. The airplane takes you from everything you have known- your profession, your credentials, your language, your neighborhood, your faith community- and you land at Raleigh Durham international airport. You know that Americans have become increasingly suspicious of refugees, and you don’t know what to expect. The agency that is helping you lets you know that within six months you must be independent: employed, living in an apartment, assimilating into American culture.
What would it take for you to achieve independence? The Refugee Resettlement programs of Raleigh, including Lutheran Family Services, rely on volunteers to supplement their staff to provide the services needed.
If you are among those who are willing to invest time to help refugees transition to independence, these are examples of opportunities:
Limited time commitment (one time commitment, very limited contact with the refugees)
Meeting family at the airport and providing their first meal in America, a meal that is familiar to their palates.
Purchasing groceries for families before they arrive.(You will be reimbursed; items to be purchased are specified)
Helping to set up the apartment with donated furniture and household items to be ready when the family arrives
Donate items needed by incoming refugees (household, cleaning supplies, toys for children, coats/jackets, new underwear and socks for children)
Moderate time commitment (ongoing or recurring contact with the family)
Accompany family to stores, doctors, work and teaching bus routes to familiarize them with local resources
Visit refugee family weekly and share experiences with them (their/your outings, holiday events, birthdays, etc.)
Help refugee family connect with familiar faith communities, ethnic grocers, etc.
Help family to learn and practice English
Significant time commitment
“Adopt” a family for their first six months, working with agency staff to help them assimilate into the culture while honoring and supporting their own culture.
Help a refugee student athlete to participate in sports by purchasing equipment, uniforms, etc.
These are a few examples of ways that you could be involved and offer real assistance to refugees coming to America. You can get involved at any level and then increase or decrease your involvement as you feel called.
If any of these examples pull at your heart and spirit, please consider participating in a discussion about how we of CUCC want to get involved as a church or as a hub through which individuals both in and outside the church might work together. Your skills and your heart are needed. Please email Shirley Birt or Joan McAllister with your questions. Thank you!