Thursday, October 16, 2014

Helping refugees find a new home

By Melissa Stricker, Director of Communication and Development, Mission Central. 

Nearly 50 people attended an educational event at Mission Central on Thursday, September 25. Refugees In Our Community was presented by Catholic Charities.

Each year the President decides how many refugees will be accepted into the United States. This year there have been about 75,000.
Many refugees come from Bhutan, Iraq, Nepal, Sudan, Congo, Egypt, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Burma, and Cuba.

What is a Refugee? 
A refugee is a person who fled their native country because of persecution, war, or violence. Refugees have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinions, or membership in a particular social group.

You have two options once you become a refugee. The first is to wait out the conflict in your native country in the hope of returning someday. The second is to apply to the United Nations Refugee Agency for third country resettlement.
Catholic Charities described what life is like in a refugee camp. You basically live in a tent. You get a daily food basket that contains the following:

  • 2 cups of cereal flour/rice/bulgur
  • 2 Tbsp. of oil
  • 1/4 cup of fortified blended foods
  • 1/4 cup of pulses (beans or peas)
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. of sugar
  • 1 tsp. of iodized salt

There are five steps for refugee resettlement:

  1. Flee your home and register with UNHCR as a refugee seeking protection in a country of asylum.
  2. Give up all hope of returning home and begin to apply for third country resettlement.
  3. Pass extensive biometric and security screening processes with the Departments of State and Homeland Security, then complete an in-person interview with USCIS.
  4. Once you receive approval, you undergo a thorough health screening, participate in cultural orientation, and accept the responsibility of repaying a travel loan. (On average, it is $1,500 per family member.)
  5. Fly to your new country with few belongings or money.

Catholic Charities helps refugees on average from 3-6 months. Their services include picking up families at the airport, finding a home, providing pocket money, applying for a Social Security number, and enrolling children into school.

But we know the work doesn’t stop there. Catholic Charities is looking for people who are willing to help these families get adjusted to life in America. You can help by becoming a friend and mentor. You can help with transportation to doctor’s appointments or English classes.

If you would like to learn more about how you can help, call Catholic Charities at 717-657-4804.

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