Grace Refugee Ministry – Annual Report 2019
GRACE REFUGEE MINISTRY
Steering Committee: Carriellen Beaudreau, Pam Dahill, Susan Maloney, Terri Price
Family Arrival and Lutheran Social Services Support – In late December 2018, the Grace Church Refugee Ministry got a call from Lutheran Social Services (LSS) asking us to be a Good Neighbor Partner for a family of seven arriving from Afghanistan. Grace Church parishioners had waited for over a year to be matched with a family and were eager to say “yes” but worried about finding and furnishing an apartment during the Christmas holidays. Thankfully, through an outpouring of support from Grace Church members, along with the generous support from A Wider Circle, a furnished apartment and more awaited the Faridullah family when they arrived at Dulles Airport late on January 3, 2019. The family was met by three parishioners and a case worker from LSS who gave us an early glimpse of how quickly things would unfold for this family.
Early the morning after their arrival, the LSS caseworker and several volunteers were back at the apartment as the caseworker provided emergency debit cards, initiated the processes to secure green cards and social security cards, and state benefits such as food stamps (SNAP). The family is in the US legally and qualifies for these benefits.
Soon after, volunteers accompanied the family for their mandatory refugee health screening and follow-up appointments. The next few weeks, in addition to unpacking and getting organized, included how to ride the bus, grocery shop, call 911, locate a hospital for an emergency, find the apartment office, set up a bank account, obtain phones, and more. Later in January, Mr. Farid began required work at ResCare to maintain benefits; and in mid-February moved on to taking English classes at Montgomery College.
Grace volunteers secured winter clothing and celebrated children’s birthdays. Volunteer tutors began to work with family members. And other volunteers worked with the Montgomery County Public Schools International Office to establish school placements and locate records from Afghanistan.
The March 17, 2019 visit from Bishop Marion Edger Budde provided a wonderful fellowship occasion to introduce the Faridullah family to the parish and sample an Afghan meal.
Grace Church Takes the Lead – After three months with LSS support there was no longer an assigned caseworker who also served as a translator. Grace volunteers stepped up in many roles.
The Finance Committee manages the generous donations to the Refugee Ministry, helps manage the apartment lease, and provides weekly financial tutoring. Kara Strong adapted a financial literacy curriculum, and thanks to Google, translates it into Pashto for the family. The Employment Committee swung into action and identified potential work options for Mr. Farid, supported him developing a resume, and obtaining interviews. The Youth Group developed lessons, made welcome signs, and moved furniture. The Men’s Group contributed proceeds from events they sponsored.
The four eldest children enrolled in school, are engaged students, and seem to be settling in. Enriching summer programs were found for all the children except the youngest. The eldest son completed his mandatory Selective Service sign up, and he and his Dad both obtained driver’s licenses.
Gradually, needed documents arrived, medical cards were sent, and other milestones completed. At this point medical and dental care became a major focus for volunteers who helped complete immunizations for children to meet school requirements, took Mrs. Gul Jamala to WIC appointments to maintain those benefits, and undertook the busy schedules of new patient appointments for each family member. The family is still catching up on medical and dental care that was scarce in their war-torn country.
Settling In – We are grateful to have come to know this hard-working, resilient, outgoing family. Currently, all five children are in school. One at Bethesda Chevy Chase High School, two at Silver Creek Middle School, one at Rock Creek Forest Elementary, and the 3-year old at Grace Episcopal Day School (GEDS). Getting her to and from GEDS each week requires a 10-person set of drivers and about the same numbers of donated car seats. It is a joy to see how rapidly this young child is learning English! And we are proud that a Grace Church staff member is among the drivers.
Mr. Farid works in building maintenance at Westfield Montgomery Mall. The eldest son has been working after school at Walmart. He will be leaving that job on good terms and plans to focus more on schooling with an eye toward college. Mrs. Gul Jamala recently began English classes at Montgomery College which has given her confidence speaking and allowed her to meet other Afghan women in the area.
Looking ahead to 2020 – We are awed by the commitment of this parish as it continues to support the resettlement of this family. At its November meeting, the Vestry approved continuing to support this family financially in 2020. The goal of Refugee Resettlement is for a family to become self-sufficient which includes work, safe housing, health care, transportation, childcare, food, clothing, medicine and cleaning products, paying, taxes, etc. This family is not there yet but is moving in the right direction.
The family will soon be learning about filing taxes and continues to make payments to pay back the cost of their transportation to the US.
We remain grateful to all of you for keeping the Faridullah family in your lives and prayers. When the family arrived at Dulles, Mr. Farid told our volunteers:
“Thank you, you saved me, you saved the life of my children.”
We look forward to continuing to work with you in the year ahead.