In this year of Mercy, the Basilica decided to accept Pope Francis’ call to welcome refugees into our community and joined forces with Lutheran Social Services (LSS) to co-sponsor a refugee family. Last December we held a second collection to raise funds for the effort and our generous community donated enough money to support not only one but three refugee families. It was an overwhelming response and we were truly blessed and inspired by the generosity of the community. The refugee committee, composed of approximately 40 Basilica members, quickly got to work to prepare for the arrival of the first family, who arrived safely in February 2016. Now, almost a full year into our efforts, the committee wanted to share how the funds have been used and the impact it has had on the families we’ve supported.
When co-sponsoring a family, the Basilica provides both financial and mentoring support to the family. From a financial perspective, the primary way the Basilica helps the family is by paying their rent for the first six months. When a refugee family comes to the United States, their housing is not subsidized and they are responsible for paying for their own housing. Coming from a foreign country, many refugees struggle with English at first and it can be difficult to find a job with so many things to work through, especially in their first few months here. During that time the family is trying to set up basic needs such as registering with the appropriate government offices, obtaining identification cards, getting their children enrolled in school and attending English as a second language classes. Through the Basilica’s donation of the rent for the first six months, the family has some time to get things in order, search for work and save some money for future needs. In addition to helping the family with rent, the Basilica also supports the family by providing basic clothing and household supplies. Each family’s needs are different and varies somewhat based on their culture however, some common items that are provided are winter clothing for the parents and children and some household items such as a used vacuum cleaner, computer and television set to help the family adapt to their new life.
The second way the Basilica provides support to our refugee family is through a mentor team. The key role of the mentor team is to help the family get acclimated to their new culture and to make sure the family knows that someone cares about their wellbeing. The mentor team is made up of four parishioners who meet with the family about once a week, helping with various items. These activities vary from family to family but some common themes have been helping the adults prepare their resume and fill out job applications, taking the family to the grocery store so they can buy food, helping the family budget for expenses, teaching the family how to navigate the bus system, and helping them obtain library cards at their local library. The mentors also go on fun outings with the family taking them to places such as Como zoo and other local parks to expose them to the great things in our community.
Thank you to everyone that has supported our efforts to co-sponsor a refugee family in this year of mercy. The families are grateful to the Basilica community for our support and encouragement along their journey. If you would be interested in learning more about the refugee committee and how you can get involved, please visit the Just Living blog at mary.org or contact Tracy Droessler at firstname.lastname@example.org.