Refugees in My Backyard

Worldwide, almost 60 million people have no choice but to leave their homes due to war and violence. These people generally flee to other parts of their country or to neighboring countries. Imagine running away with only what you can carry, ending up in an unfamiliar place with no home, no job, and no food.

Managing to flee to the United States seems like a dream come true, right? But, consider the struggle even here – securing a place to live, getting a job without knowing the language, learning to use the transportation system, grasping new customs… Even purchasing food at the market is an overwhelming experience.

I recently learned of a local organization that resettles refugees, helping them in all aspects of making a new life in a city half the world away from their home. This week, I visited four resettling refugee families who live a 40-minute drive from my home. A co-worker and I took a practical money-saving gift to families with daughtersLuoPacks, washable reusable feminine hygiene kits.

A woman from Eritrea discovered a little over a year ago that she has ovarian cancer. Since living here, she has received treatments that seem to be working. Her husband had to quit work to take care of their five children. Now that she’s getting stronger, he hopes to return to work soon. Where would she be if she had not come here?

IMG_4883Feeding seven children and keeping a roof overhead makes money very tight for one Iraqi family. The mother asked desperately for a solution to the monthly needs of her and her four daughters. Disposable hygiene supplies are expensive, especially when you’re simply trying to keep food on the table.

We visited a family from Congo. Three sisters, probably in their late teens or early twenties, greeted us and somewhat shyly accepted our gift after we did our show and tell. One girl in particular was giddy when we asked if we could take a picture with her. Giggling, she took off her jacket, and smoothed her shirt. Then, she put on a customary solemn face for the picture. Their hospitality, despite their meager resources, showed such kindness. One of the girls quickly began preparing a meal, but we only had a few minutes to stay. I hated that we had to decline. I’m sure she was disappointed, too.

IMG_4886

Our final stop took us to a complex where we found our new Somali friend in the laundry facility. She took us to her apartment where she made sure we each had a chair and a bottle of water. As I began to pull the items from the bag, her eyes lit up and she excitedly began digging in the bag in her hand. This simple item we women take for granted was a major help for her and her girls. We laughed as she exclaimed, “Gracias!” over and over, not realizing her new vocabulary word was not English.

Her sentiment was fully understood, and You’re Welcome! My prayers are with these precious people and with those dedicated to helping them find their way.

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