Neighbors start refugee co-sponsorship group, welcome Afghan family
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Jim knew he wanted to help welcome refugees resettling in his community. And after talking with his neighbors, Chris and Erin, he quickly realized several neighbors were eager to volunteer too. Jim reached out to Bethany to see if, together, they could become a refugee co-sponsorship group.
“Refugee co-sponsorship means helping settle a refugee family that has fled a really dangerous, violent situation and help them have a safe place,” says Jim. “There’s a tremendous global need, and here in North America we have so many resources to offer.”
Excited to volunteer and connect cross-culturally, families knew they would need to make at least a six-month commitment but had questions about how they would be involved in helping a resettled family.
“Bethany was really valuable in helping us know what was required of a refugee co-sponsorship group because we had to decide, Can we really do this? Bethany gave us a good overview of the different roles and what the expectations would be. We didn’t need to know their language, we just had to be flexible and open-minded. It was reassuring to know we could call, email, or text somebody from Bethany at any time and get a quick response,” says Jim.
Soon the group was picking up an Afghan family—a mom, dad, and four children—at the airport. For Erin, knowing the family had left everything behind only increased her desire to make sure they had everything they needed upon their arrival.
“It was exciting because we’d been preparing for them. We knew their names, their ages, but it was just cool to meet them and welcome them. We wanted them to be comfortable and feel as welcomed as possible right away,” says Erin.
The group began walking alongside the Afghan family as they began life in their new neighborhood. Everyone in the co-sponsorship group had different skills, and they all assisted in various ways. Some showed the family how to shop at the grocery store, others drove them to appointments, got them the clothing they needed, or helped them open a bank account. Above all, the group wanted them to know they were there to walk alongside them, and no question was insignificant.
“We all help them navigate the complex systems we have in America,” says Jim. “Those of us who have lived here, we have that knowledge, and we don’t even know we have that knowledge until we meet some folks who need it. Then, it’s like, Wow! I didn’t realize I knew so much that I could offer to others!”
For Chris, being part of a refugee co-sponsorship group has been a rewarding experience.
“I would strongly encourage anybody who’s thinking about sponsoring a refugee family to just jump in and do it,” he says. “It’s incredible what you learn and how much you grow to care about someone. It’s been an amazing experience for us.”