Mission Spotlight: Refugee Backpack Event

On Saturday, August 12, hundreds of students from the Wichita Refugee Community received backpacks and school supplies at First Presbyterian Church.  Grace joined First Presbyterian and Trinity Presbyterian in partnering with the International Rescue Committee for this event.  Here are some reflections from Grace Participants.  This is part one of two in this series.

By Wizie Eads

Since I volunteer at IRC (International Rescue Committee), I have had the perspective of welcoming refugees at a vulnerable moment in their respective lives. When an IRC caseworker introduces a newly arrived person or family to me to take to the social security office or any other first-month required visits, the notion of trust comes up immediately. The family is told to go with me. I wear my IRC lanyard. It is an immediate bond.

On the day of the backpack party, I was assigned as a driver. Since I also serve on my refugee team at church, I had been involved with advertising, collecting/delivering donated school supplies and monies to First Presbyterian (where the event took place on August 12), as well as helping to ‘set up’ the school supplies in the form of a ‘shop.’ It warmed my heart that members of the Hindu temple wanted to join our efforts. The support of so many faith based organizations coming together felt right. I wanted to get school children to the shop.

IRC had asked clients to come there by bus. Initially, my job as driver was to take families back and forth to IRC. But, after the first few runs it slowed down. So at IRC, we decided to take First Presbyterian’s mini bus to a community near Towne East where many IRC clients live. Pastor Brent of First Presbyterian drove (and I assisted since I knew where many families lived). At this moment I understood the value of my IRC lanyard.  As we knocked on doors, one newly arrived father (whose door we knocked on) took it upon himself to take us to the doors of families with school kids. We coordinated more drivers to this community and were able to take about 25 kids.

I am bursting with joy reflecting on how many people came together in our Wichita community to make this backpack party a success! And I want to thank everyone at Grace Presbyterian who supported this effort. Your gifts made a difference!

By Esther Cummins

On Saturday, August 12, many volunteers from various churches gathered at First Presbyterian Church to offer service to refugees in Wichita.

After the people had gathered in the church dining room, we were introduced to the piles of backpacks and school supplies spread out on tables in the distribution area. Some folks volunteered to be drivers to pick up some of the refugees. I chose to stay and help students pick out their items for school.

The first students I helped were going to be juniors at South High and had been here last year. So, actually they were showing me the “ropes.” These two girls were from Ethiopia. We had a cheerful conversation, and I felt like they were good students and have made the adjustment to this country very well.

I saw many families come to this event and before long the waiting area was abuzz with laughter and conversation. I noted we had many more volunteers than were needed but that gave us more time to get acquainted with people from other churches. It was a meaningful experience.


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