By Beth McArthur Aikens, Co-Chair of Refugee Resettlement Committee
In January, 2017, David Jensen, chair of CCC’s Missions and Outreach program; Father Bill; and Pastor Manisha began the process of partnering with Samaritas, a refugee resettlement program. Sonia Pastore, Anita Qonja and I lead a group of volunteers as we navigated the sponsorship process. In October, Samaritas paired us with the AlZebari family from Mosul, Iraq: Jalal and Rana; their children, Noeel, Mati, and Sandra; and Jalal’s mother, Miriam.
First, we organized a drive to collect clothes and furnishings. Over the course of several home visits, our volunteers got to know the family better. Rana and Miriam came to Advent by Candlelight and the family joined us for several Sunday services. During the Christmas offering, we received an astounding amount of support for the family: $9,901.25. Some money went towards paying for an ESL class for Rana. Some went towards enrolling her in a driver’s education course. Some went towards repairing a van that Jalal had purchased and buying new tires.
We invested a large portion of the funds in educating the children. We began by preparing a “learning box” filled with educational activities for the children and creating opportunities for our volunteers to work with the children one-on-one. It soon became clear that the children, who had not attended school consistently since leaving Iraq, needed more professional support. To this end, we arranged for all three children to work with tutors at Eton Academy. All of these investments were critical to preparing the family to become independent after our support period ended. Learning new skills is never easy, but the AlZebari family is determined. Rana passed her driving course and her English has improved exponentially. The family is mobile. The children have a greater chance of success in school.
Even after all of this, we had about $3,500 left over from the Christmas offering. We have put this to good use. When refugees are admitted to the United States, the International Organization for Migration arranges and pays for their plane tickets. Refugees sign a document promising to repay these interest-free loans over a specific period. The AlZebaris wer astounded when Sonia Pastore told them that CCC would pay their $3,481 loan. “I felt like Santa Claus watching their shocked faces,” Sonia writes. “They are grateful beyond words. Jalal especially wants the church to know that they couldn’t have been so successful if not for our support.” The family will join us at CCC on September 30 at CCC’s 90th to receive their check. We hope that you will come meet them.
David Jensen writes that the congregation “deserves much thanks” for their “outpouring of generosity” at Christmas. He is particularly happy about another “by-product of this effort,” which is “the creation of new friendships [….] that has brought a richness and sweetness among those who served the family.” “All of this,” he writes, “must be what happens when you look to care for those in need.”