They came to America from far away, escaping dangers most of us try not to think happen. Often, they came with nothing but their name and the clothes on their back.
There is a word for those who would endure all that, refugee. Since this week is World Refugee Awareness Week, it’s the perfect time to learn more about their stories, lives, and contributions to America. World Refugee Day is on Saturday, June 19.
To aid awareness, Samaritas is hosting a free town hall on June 15 from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. for the public to learn about the positive economic and cultural impact refugees have in our communities and how we can support and improve resettlement services and programs.
“Virtual discussions like the Refugee Roundtable, Samaritas is hosting, is a good step toward education, awareness and empathy for people who need our support in so many ways,” says Chris Cavanaugh, director of New American Resettlement for Samaritas.
Moderator Doug Tribou, host of Michigan Radio’s “Morning Edition” show, will lead the discussion with former refugees and refugee experts.
Speakers will include:
- Lee Williams, vice president of programs, Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS)
- Chris Cavanaugh, director of New American Resettlement, Samaritas
- Kayla Park, team lead, Refugee Youth Services Community Outreach, Samaritas
- Miriam Jordan, national immigration correspondent, The New York Times
- Edwin Rigoberto Hernández-Ventura, Michigan delegate for the refugee congress and former unaccompanied minor from Honduras
There will also be an online art show titled, “Written Dreams in Paper/Suenos Escritos en Papel” presented by DTE Energy and Delta Dental of Michigan. There you will find paintings by members of the unaccompanied minors program. The paintings, as well as merchandise with them are for sale. The proceeds will benefit Samaritas programs.
Check out the art show here.
Two years ago, Samaritas had enough housing to meet the needs of all new refugees.
For 2022, it’s expected it will need five times that number, or 120 homes or apartments, in East Michigan alone to meet the needs of the anticipated 500 refugees who’ll arrive between Oct. 1, 2021 and Sept. 30, 2022. Young refugees will also need community support.
“Welcoming refugees is who we are as Americans,” says Cavanaugh. “It’s important to promote a spirit of welcoming in our state and community as we emerge from the pandemic and prepare to resettle more refugees in the coming year.”
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that 79.5 million people worldwide have been forced to flee their homes. They also report that 40 percent of the world’s displaced people are children. As of 2019, the UNHCR also estimated there were 153,300 unaccompanied and separated children recognized globally.
Samaritas is at the forefront of this challenge. Through its affiliation with Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service (LIRS), Samaritas is one of approximately 30 organizations nationwide designated to take care of unaccompanied children and unaccompanied refugee minors in the U.S.
Samaritas has resettled thousands of people from dozens of countries in Europe, Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Central and South America. It has been the Michigan affiliate of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service since the 1950s.
“We’re especially proud to be one of the few programs in the U.S. to serve unaccompanied children and unaccompanied refugee minors,” says Kevin Van Den Bosch, COO, Samaritas. “However, we’re at a crisis, and desperately need more Michigan families to get licensed to temporarily take in these kids and serve as mentors to other New Americans in our program.”
If you would like to volunteer at Samaritas please click here.
You can donate at the website here.
Donations to support Samaritas New Americans and Refugee Youth Services programs can also be accepted via text message. Just text “RefugeeYouth” to (855) 450-0515 to donate and share information about this important topic.
No amount is too small to help.