A Leap of Faith
The Faridullah Family left their ancestral home–a rural compound filled with extended family–to seek safety, work, and education. Grace parishioners said “yes” we would help resettle a refugee family of seven people and swung into action over the Christmas holidays to locate and furnish an apartment for an unknown family. We came together for the first time on January 3, 2019 at Dulles Airport very late at night.
The first thing the dad in the family said to the Grace Church volunteers was
Thank you. You have saved me. You saved my family’s lives.
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Grace Church Volunteers. Volunteers located and furnished an apartment and oriented the family to the many tasks we take for granted. Adventures included riding the buses, going grocery shopping, locating mail, obtaining phones, learning to call 911, setting up a bank account and more. Volunteers accompanied the family to health appointments, helped pick up prescriptions, and contributed clothing. School placements were completed and volunteer tutors began to work with family members. Financial guidance got underway and computers were donated.
The Family. We immediately experienced the graciousness of the family as they warmly greeted visitors offering tea and snacks and calmly worked with us to understand each other. We gradually learned that people do not become refugees by choice. Refugees are forced to flee their homes on account of persecution, war, and violence. This family had lived their entire lives in a war torn country. The dad was a young child when the war began.
Ministry during the pandemic. All are weathering the challenges associated with the pandemic. Texts, emails, and phone calls suffice for what is easier to convey in person.
For nearly a year, all five children were participating in school on-line. Volunteers now provide a liaison role with teachers as the family becomes more familiar with the school system.
As children begin to return to school, the classrooms will be configured differently and new routines will emerge. And hopefully summer classes and camps will provide enrichment and additional time for learning.
The Goal. The goal of refugee resettlement is for a family to become self-sufficient. That includes work, safe housing, transportation, childcare, food, clothing, health and dental care, medicine and household necessities, paying taxes and more. These challenges continue to guide our work with the Faridullah family.
At this time, it is anticipated that achieving self-sufficiency will happen over a three to five year period with the family demonstrating increasing independence.
The Refugee Ministry at Grace Episcopal Church, Silver Spring, Maryland partnered with Lutheran Social Services/National Capital Area to sponsor a refugee family through their Good Neighbor program. Due to policy changes in immigration services at that time, we were surprised to have only three months of caseworker services and guidance. Lutheran Social Services is one of nine national agencies that works in partnership with the U.S Government to resettle refugees.