Refugees have been close to my heart for some time now. Traveling to the Middle East a few years ago to see a little of their world was not only eye opening but heart breaking. We see and hear a lot on the news but how can we as mamas know where to even begin… honestly, I sometimes just stay stuck in the “heart break” stage.
My super fun friend Misty works with World Relief, an organization that walks alongside refugees and helps them get settled in their new homes. She was kind enough to answer my questions and help us know what we can do.
It’s also World Refugee month during June leading up to World Refugee Day today, June 20th. Will you take a minute to read and respond as God leads your heart.
“America is so great. The mail comes every day here.”
I have never sat back on my couch and been in awe of our postal system- I am certain it is because I take amenities like receiving the mail daily for granted, but this was the first thing a refugee mentioned when asked about first impressions of the U.S. Since 2015, over 450 refugees have been resettled in Anderson, Greenville, and Spartanburg County. Each day at work, I have the opportunity to serve refugees daily and partner with them as they begin to rebuild their lives in a place they have never known. As an employee of World Relief and a major fan of On Mission Moms, there are a few things I want you to know about the refugees we serve!
1. A refugee does not choose to come here.
A refugee, by definition, is someone who has been forced to leave their home country because their lives or safety have been threatened. Today, over 65 million people in the world have been forcibly displaced from their homes. International law defines a refugee as someone who leaves their country because of a well-founded fear of persecution for one of these five reasons: race, religion, nationality, political opinion, membership in a particular social group (UNHCR). For more info, be sure to read, “What is a Refugee.”
Refugees are not the same as any other kind of immigrant or asylum seeker. Resettlement is the last option for a refugee, and they are placed in a variety of countries. Generally (there are a few caveats) a refugee does not get to choose the country they will move to. An extensive vetting process makes the Refugee Resettlement Process the most difficult way of entering the US. The average processing time for a refugee’s case is just over 18 years. This means that if a person is a part of the small percentage that has the opportunity to go to another country, they will wait years before the move actually comes to fruition.
2. Not all refugees are the same.
Refugees have all experienced persecution but because they come from all over the world, they are very different from each other. They are light skinned and dark skinned and Christian and Muslim. They are eating things we have never heard of but also passing you in Costco. They dream of having families or growing up and being mamas. They dream about the career they will have and have hopes for their children. They want a family and a safe, peaceful life for themselves.
A volunteer, Jim, recently stated, “As much as we’re different, we’re a lot alike. Some of us have just been given better opportunities at certain times. We have the same basic needs, the same desires for our families. So I really believe we have a responsibility to love and serve our vulnerable neighbor.”
3. Refugees make America better.
The only thing that has really stood out to me as typical amongst our diverse population of refugees is their spirit of hospitality. More often than not when I walk through the door of someone’s home, I am given tea and water with a variety of accompaniments! I had to say accompaniments; there is not a better word that describes the plethora of snacks I am given. It has completely reshaped the way I think about hospitality and inviting people into my life.
Extensive studies have been done to show how essential refugees are to the U.S economy. They pay more in taxes than the amount of help we give them in the beginning, and they are essential to filling vacant jobs to keep our country’s businesses going.
Will you take a minute to read about the contributions of Refugees here?
4. We need your help.
- GIVE. Our office has recently undergone some budget cuts. We are constantly doing more with less and need private donations more than ever before. Your donations could go towards things like bus tickets to get clients to work, stocking an apartment with groceries, etc. World Relief is holding a fundraising campaign for the entire month of June. If you would like to donate to our local World Relief office, click here!
- Volunteer – Volunteer to be a “Friendship Partner” or “Language Partner” to another mom with little ones!
- Notes – Have your children write some notes to other littles for us to place in backpacks! These notes would be encouraging them as they prepare for their first day of school in a new country, where they don’t know anyone and don’t speak the language.
- Put together a Welcome Kit! We have a list of essential items that make up a “Welcome Kit.” Every refugee family receives one upon arrival.
Where can we go to learn more about the Refugee process or how to be involved?
For questions about our office or our work, please contact me. I would love to chat with you about the backgrounds of some of our refugees and how they make it to the Upstate. If you are willing to volunteer, I can connect you with our Volunteer and Church Mobilization Specialist to discuss our training process!! Our contact info is here!