They make their way, sometimes walking for days, to a safe haven…like a refugee camp. There, they’re registered with the UN. To understand what a refugee experiences, take a moment to imagine how you would feel if suddenly you were forced to leave the U.S. b/c your eyes are blue or because you are a Christian. What if you were unexpectedly thrust out of the home you have always known, into a land where they speak a language you don’t understand, and all their customs are different. Your professional credentials are not recognized. You no longer have any possessions. You must start all over and build a new life from scratch in a foreign place, and learn a new language.
Refugees are targets for many reasons, including race, nationality, ethnic origin, gender, religion, lifestyle, or tribe. They come from countries engaged in war or devastated by warring factions. (They are classified differently than those displaced by natural disasters, though the UN helps them both.) The majority of refugees today are found in refugee camps in the marginal regions of poor, developing countries.After refugees cross into another country, they are classified as refugees, and are protected by international law. This protection extends ONLY to those people considered non-combatants—they have not participated in fighting or acts of violence. As refugees, they are given food, shelter, and protection in the host country. At the beginning of 2007, there were an estimated 24.5 million refugees in at least 52 countries. Very few will make it out of refugee camps, but those that do are assisted, once they are processed, by resettlement agencies such as CFS. Most refugees in Amarillo are honest, hard working people who just want the best life for their families. They have been through horrendous circumstances (one of our employees lived in a tent no bigger than a large master bathroom with ten other family members for TEN YEARS) and even refugee camps, while safe and better than the place the refugees left, are crowded and suffer from a lack of resources (water, medicine, food). One startling fact: EIGHTY PERCENT of refugees are women and children! Each year, the President determines the # of refugees who will be admitted to the U.S. The ones who end up here need help rebuilding their lives after losing everything—homes, countries, jobs, family members, friends, and at times even their health. They are survivors who display enormous courage and persistence and who have lived through unimaginable circumstances. Many refugees then spend years and sometimes decades in substandard refugee camps. Less than 1% of all refugees get the chance to leave a camp and resettle in the U.S., Canada, Europe, Australia or other country that resettles refugees.8,177,800 people have been refugees for 10 years or more.
When refugees are forced to flee their homeland, they usually find themselves in acountry adjacent to theirs. Often, that country does not accept refugees or has no place for them. When war causes mass persecution, refugees are often thrown into makeshift camps, where they live in crowded conditions with limited rations and exposure to harsh climates. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) sends people into these camps to interview refugees, hoping to find a better place for them. If interviewed, and the UNHCR staff person finds him or her to have a valid claim of persecution, a refugee can apply to a country that accepts refugees, asking permission to live there. There are 16 countries that accept refugees for resettlement. (Only about 1 percent of refugees are able to resettle.) When the United States accepts a refugee, their background is thoroughly checked. They are interviewed, screened, and they go through security clearance before being admitted. CFS is a very well-regarded resettlement agency which has had great success in placing refugees in jobs and helping them integrate into American life. It began under the Diocese of the Catholic Church. Refugee resettlement can be traced to the landing docks of Ellis Island. It was originally done by the religious and ethnic organizations which formed the foundation for the public-private partnership roles of today. 1948 saw the first refugee legislation, resettling 250,000 displaced Europeans and was later adjusted for those fleeing communism. In 1980 the Refugee Act standardized the resettlement process. (CFS is now federally-funded and a non-profit organization.) CFS’s work is rooted in scripture and Catholic social teaching—based on a tradition of compassion and justice for the poor—and in the belief that the strength of the United States lies in its diverse ethnic and cultural heritage. CFS has been resettling refugees since the 1970’s and the fall of Saigon. In 1975, CFS began resettling the “Boat people” of Vietnam in Amarillo. We are affiliates of a voluntary agency called the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, USCCB. Refugee programs in the U.S. are ranked based on cost of living, the availability of good, affordable housing, the # of refugees who become employed, and the number of refugees who move away within 90 days. The CFS resettlement program is one of the top-ranking programs in the U.S. and has received national recognition for our services to refugees in the Texas panhandle. (The representative of USCCB chooses the name or names of refugees they will send to Amarillo. The refugees don’t choose to come here.) Amarillo has not been hit as hard with the recession, so some refugees have been “diverted” here from other places that have been harder hit. Also, refugees often resettle in areas with available jobs that require little existing English literacy (Tyson, Swift, etc.) Many of our refugee clients end up working for CFS in different capacities (job developer, case manager, interpreter, delivery driver, etc.) because they want to help others like they’ve been helped. We employ staff from 14 different countries and they speak 19 different languages. It’s truly a melting pot and a fascinating place to work. I learn so much every day!
CFS gets money from govt. grants to rent the apartment, turn on utilities, and shop for all the things the family will need, such as sheets, blankets, pillows, food, cleaning supplies, etc. CFS also must furnish the apartments with the help of donated furniture and volunteers.When the family arrives, CFS staff greet them at the airport and take them to their new home. Depending on where the refugee family comes from, some may need help understanding the thermostat, toilet, garbage disposal, and even electric lights. Any urgent medical needs are taken care of immediately. Once the family has had a day or two to rest, the case manager goes over basic information with them, finding out their background, history, interests, and work experience. The family begins attending our English-as-a-Second-Language and Literacy classes. They attend a health screening given through the City of Amarillo Department of Health where they receive vaccinations and any medical tests they need. Children are enrolled in school. Then, CFS works to find the adults in the family good jobs. Within three years, they must apply for citizenship. Within five years, they are required to take the test.
They are artisans, mechanics, architects, metal workers, painters, carpenters, housewives and farmers. They come from Congo, Burma, Somalia, Kosovo, Cuba, Poland, Ethiopia, Liberia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Chile, Colombia, Senegal, China, Vietnam, Sudan, Poland, and more. There are Christians of all denominations, Muslims, Buddhists, Yazidis, and Mandean among the refugees living here. Some have PhD’s, MD’s, Masters and Bachelors degrees. Some are illiterate. Others are well educated. Some were very poor before they came. Others had a comfortable life and were very respected in their communities before the war came, and they lost everything. Refugees come to the U.S. hoping to find work and a peaceful life for their families.
Refugees are some of the nicest people you’ve ever met. They are incredibly hard-working and SO grateful for the chance to be free, learn English, make money and move about freely. Many of them work the night shift (or two jobs) and then go to English classes and orientation during their “free” time. Often, they are working minimum wage jobs and sending money home (1/3 of their salary or more) to relatives in refugee camps or in the country they escaped from. Many people ask if refugees come to the US to get on welfare. The answer is NO! In spite of the English barriers and terrible trauma they’ve been through, they begin working as soon as they get their SS cards. They pay taxes just like everyone else. For every dollar spent on them, they pay $7 in taxes (WH facts). Refugees contribute a wealth of skills, talents, abilities and knowledge to our community.
We live in a global community, interconnected to people from other countries in many ways. As global citizens, it is important to think about how we, as Americans, can help others in a crisis situation until they are able to become self-sufficient and help themselves. The world has become much smaller and its’ good stewardship to take care of those needy among us. Throughout America’s history, refugees have played an important role in our country, making advancements in medicine, science, and many other fields. Einstein was a refugee! Our ancestors fled religious persecution when they came to Plymouth Rock. In addition, we just need more time, resources, funds—just like any non-profit. CFS is given money by the federal government to help refugees resettle, but the govt. assumes that the refugees will be in a job, with housing, healthcare, and other basic needs met, in four months. That’s a VERY tall order, so we need lots of help from the community to make that a reality.
All of the refugees are God’s precious children, just as we are. He loves them unconditionally, as we should. We have been so blessed! Even if we only had running water, indoor plumbing, one car, and a durable roof over our heads, we would have far more than most refugees. But we have been given much more than that. What will we do with the blessings God has given us? Will we share? Will we give of our time, talents, and money? The scriptures are also full of commands (not requests) to speak up for those who have been stripped of their possessions, dignity, loved ones, and homes. The Old Testament shows how much He cares for the children of Israel, who were refugees from Egypt. Question to ask ourselves: Do we want a faith that’s safe, or one that is authentic?
We are looking for people who will be friends to newly-arrived folks. The quickest way for them to learn American culture is to mingle with Americans. Our staff are so busy with so many clients that we cannot socialize with the refugees. They so want to have friends over for dinner, or go on outings to see the city. You can help! Or if you can’t give a lot of time, we also need employers willing to hire a refugee: Most are hard-working, loyal, grateful for the job. 2) Help with shopping, donate items, give money to purchase items (see our website for ideas). 3) Use your special knowledge (banking, law enforcement, real estate, CPA). 4) We can always use in-kind donations, such as graphic design, medical/dental care, etc. 5) Most refugees don’t have cars; they need rides or have to use public transportation. 6) Our ESL classes are always full and we could use some assistants (no exp. necessary!). AND we get credit (match grants) for volunteer hours. If you can’t give money—don’t worry. Your time is literally as good as money at CFS!
1)Experts report that focusing on someone else reduces stress and strengthens the immune system.2) Volunteering provides valuable community services so more money can be spent on local improvements and for providing more services.As a volunteer you assist in uniting people from diverse backgrounds to work toward a common goal; building camaraderie and teamwork;you help support families; improve schools; support youth. Community service and volunteerism are an investment in our community and the people who live in it.3) You learn a lot. Personal growth, self-esteem, perspective about how privileged you are. Promotes empathy. Discover hidden talents. Through working with local non-profit agencies, volunteers learn about the functions and operation of our government.You get a chance to give back.4) Opens your mind; expands your vocabulary. Enrich you socially; make new friendships.5) People from different cultures can teach us so much! We are more connected than ever, and the more we can learn about global issues and our ever-changing world, the better citizens we can be. Plus, it’s fun!6) Every person, every action counts.Some quotes from those who’ve volunteered with CFS: “I loved working with a refugee family. My children and I learned so much and it really changed our lives!” “The refugees we befriended several years ago are still our dear friends. We see them frequently and are so encouraged by their success!” “We saw how blessed we were by working with a refugee family. It made us grateful for everything.”“I’ve been impressed by how hard-working the refugees are. They come in not knowing the language and having suffered through terrible adversity, yet they go right to work, and they work very hard.”***While blessing others, you will be blessed beyond measure***
We are not beauty queens—at least not most of us. But, we are children of the King. We are called to shine His light, to take His message of hope and peace to the world. “Go ye into all the world and preach the gospel” was the mandate Christ gave at the end of his earthly ministry. And now, the world has come to us. Paramount Baptist Church has an ESL ministry (Learning English Among Friends) that has reached people from 60 different nations in the past 15 years! Will you welcome them, in His name? Will you go into all the world without getting on an airplane? I hope so…because if you do, I can promise you that you will be educated, challenged, inspired, and extremely blessed—spiritually, mentally, and emotionally.
The refugee Community in Amarillo—and How You can Help<br />A Safe Place to Land<br />
Just Imagine…<br />You’re in your bed. It’s the middle of the night. Suddenly, you hear shouts and gunshots. You realize your village is under attack, and you must get to safety. You don’t have time to grab anything—not even extra clothes. You just leave. <br /> This is what happens to refugees.<br />
--Forced to flee their homes, due to persecution and/or violence.<br />--They are victims of discrimination, greed, war, and hatred.<br />--In contrast to immigrants, refugees don’t have a choice.<br />Who are the Refugees?<br />
Why do refugees end up here? <br />
What happens to the refugees once they get to Amarillo?<br /><ul><li> Airport
Job placement</li></li></ul><li>What kind of people are the refugees?<br />
Rich Cultural Diversity<br />Global Perspective<br />Gratitude and Patriotism<br />NEW Businesses and Churches<br />REVENUE (TAXES) <br />Loyal, Reliable Labor Force<br />REAL Community/Neighbors<br />What Do the Refugees Contribute to Amarillo?<br />
Why Should You Help?<br />"For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me... whatever you did for one of the least brothers of mine, you did for me." Matthew 25:35, 40<br />
Compassionate<br />Response<br />“Much is required to whom much is given.” Luke 12:48<br />"Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute." Proverbs 31:8<br />"Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed." Psalm 82:3<br />“Throughout history, an authentic faith has been marked by a compassionate response toward those the world tends to forget.” Gary Thomas, Authentic Faith<br />What Would Jesus Do?<br />
What Can You Do?<br />Befriend a refugee/family.<br />Hire a refugee! <br />Shop for and set up an apartment for a refugee family.<br />Assist with orientation.<br />Donate money, goods or services (dental care, document preparation, vehicles, health care).<br />Take refugees shopping, to the library or park (esp. their kids), to social events.<br />Help with ESL classes.<br />Assist with clerical/administrative tasks.<br />We’re so glad you asked! There are a variety of ways to help refugees through Catholic Family Service:<br />
What’s in it for You?<br />Better health (mentally, physically, emotionally)<br />Investment in local community<br />Valuable life/career experience.<br />Meet new people.<br />Learn about other cultures.<br />Make a tangible difference.<br />