Volunteering with Local Refugees by Carol Gates


If you asked me a year ago what I thought I’d be spending most of my time and energy on right now – my answer would have been totally wrong. But, as always, God works in mysterious ways- and as always His plan is better than our own. Harder? Maybe. But so, so much better. In light of what is going on in the U.S and around the world, I have been urged to share a bit about my experience.
Over a year ago when the Syrian crisis really hit the news, I felt that I should be doing something. I began learning about the refugee resettlement process and discovered how complicated and slow it is. First, they did not want to be refugees. They loved their homes and their countries and only left because they were in danger of being killed at the hands of the government or by the violence literally surrounding their homes. One of the families I know only left when their 3 year old was almost hit by shrapnel! They have waited for years for their chance to come. Terrorists are not sitting in refugee camps waiting for their turn. My Syrian friends waited for 3 years. My Bhutanese friends waited for 20 years !!! Our vetting process works. Not one person in the US has been killed by a refugee. (Compared to 27 people each day dying by a drunk driver.)
I also began helping adults to learn English and citizenship. And I began driving recently arrived refugees to doctor appointments. Through that I have met people from Bhutan, Nepal, Syria, Turkey, Uganda, the Congo and more – that are Hindu, Buddhist, Muslim and Christian and they are all JUST LIKE US. They love their families, and love to share meals and laughter with their friends and family. My very dear, new friend from Syria threw a welcome party for Laura and Katie when they were home in December! They take joy in their children and love learning about America and are SO grateful for the opportunity to be here. And for their children to be safe, finally. Please, put yourself in their shoes. Smile, say hello, and welcome them.

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