Mission Spotlight: Refugee Backpack Event II

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 Anne Burris

I was happy to take the time to volunteer with the refugee backpack event because I wanted to be a friendly face at an uncertain time for refugees in America.  Not only did I offer a friendly face to them, but the people who I met also were very friendly to me.

Although my children and I went to the event to give of ourselves, we received much in return, being blessed in different ways.  For example, we saw that while we live in a society of consumerism. We were able to see people who live happily with very little. A little boy about the age of six was elated to receive a calculator for school; it was the first electronic device he had ever received.  When the refugees kids and teens had long waiting times in line, rather than being on cell phones, they would sing together or play games.

In addition to seeing what joy during trials looks like, we also witnessed a true community among the refugees. While driving refugees home, I realized that most of these refugees live close to one another and help each other out with childcare, cooking, etc. It was an opportunity to witness community in a way that seems to be disappearing in America.

Many of these particular refugees were from war-torn parts of Africa such as Sudan, Congo and Somalia.  As I drove a woman and her two sons home, I spoke to her about life in America.  She told me that upon arriving, she received one month’s worth of financial aid and then was on her own to support herself financially.

I was surprised, as I thought they received assistance for longer than that.  I imagine that for her life is difficult because she didn’t come to America with a husband or any family.  She has only just begun to learn English and she works six days a week while her young children are at home.

Meeting the refugees at the event and learning about their lives made me want to help more.  I contacted the International Refugee Committee and the Episcopal Migration Ministries and am looking into other ways in which I can be a friend to those seeking refuge in America.

By Anne Woolsey

I enjoyed volunteering for the backpack event on August 12.  Although I wanted to help with students getting supplies for their backpacks, I was assigned to help with food preparation, keeping the serving table supplied, and passing out plates and napkins.  My interaction with the children and adults was rewarding.

It was a joy to see how relaxed the children seemed to be. They were playing and even chasing each other some, which may not be a good thing, but I was pleased that they seemed to be comfortable in what was a new environment for some of them.

Seeing all of the enthusiastic volunteers serving in this ministry was very gratifying to me.  It is so inspiring to witness so many people coming together to support a very worthwhile cause.

I think the refugees we were helping felt they were in a safe and caring environment, and they were grateful.

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