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Doing Good Together Newsletter )
Helping strengthen kids and communities through family volunteerism... February 2008
in this issue
  • Forging Links with a Refugee Family
  • Exchanging Ideas: What Refugees Endure
  • Inspiration
  • One Family's Story-A Heart for Friendship
  • News From DGT

  • Imagine arriving in this country without knowing the language or customs, and with no job or way to support yourself and your family. The United States takes in about 30,000 refugees each year -- all individuals who have a "well-founded fear" of persecution or death in their native countries because of their race, nationality or political or religious beliefs. By volunteering to befriend a refugee family, you and your children have the opportunity to help ease the transition for a family new to our country, meet interesting and inspiring new friends, and truly explore the world right in your own community.



    Jenny Friedman, Executive Director

    Forging Links with a Refugee Family

    Make a Difference... Befriending a refugee family might mean welcoming them at the airport, taking them on their first trip to the grocery store, having dinner together, showing them around town, teaching English, taking family members to appointments, picking up donations of furniture or household goods from local donors or helping in a job search. You will also provide moral support and become their ally, advocate and friend. The time commitment is usually 2 or 3 hours a week. To find this kind of opportunity in your community, go to VolunteerMatch.org, enter your zip code and choose the interest area, "Immigrants and Refugees." Or contact your local chapter of Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities or Jewish Children and Family Service.

    Exchanging Ideas: What Refugees Endure
    The Color of Home

    Talk About It Even if your family does not choose this volunteer option, with so many refugees arriving in the United States each year, it's important to have a conversation with your child about their stories.

  • Explain to your child what the word "refugee" means - someone who is forced to flee their home because they fear they will lose their lives or freedom if they stay.
  • Ask: What would it be like to have to leave home quickly and suddenly? What would you pack if you had just a little time? (Many refugees leave their homes with little warning and cannot even bring basic necessities.) What would you miss? How would you feel?
  • Have your child imagine what it would be like to arrive in a new country without knowing the language or the customs. Help them "walk in the shoes" of a refugee child. Ask what would help make them feel more comfortable and less scared in their new home?
  • Learn About It Read The Color of Home by Mary Hoffman about a recent immigrant from Somalia and his first day of school in America. The watercolor illustrations help tell the story of this little boy's fears and hopes. For a list of children's books about refugees, visit the Willesden Bookshop online.

    Photo: The Color of Home

    Inspiration

    "When I arrived in America, though I had left the war physically far behind, in my mind, the soldiers were still chasing to kill me, my stomach was always hungry, and my fear and distrust kept me from opening up to new friendships. I thought the war was over when I left Cambodia, but I realize now that for survivors and all those involved, the war is never over just because the guns have fallen silent."      

    Loung Ung

    "While every refugee's story is different and their anguish personal, they all share a common thread of uncommon courage - the courage not only to survive, but to persevere and rebuild their shattered lives."

    -Antonio Guterres, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees

    One Family's Story-A Heart for Friendship
    The Griep Family

    Two years ago, Denise and Dan Griep of Minneapolis recognized that each of them volunteering separately detracted from quality time the whole family could be spending together. So, together with their children, Ellie (16), Jack (13) and Mary (10), they signed up with Migration and Refugee Services of Catholic Charities to befriend a newly arrived refugee family. Before long, they were matched with a Somali family of nine-two parents, and seven kids ranging in age from 10 to 21.

    While the Somali family welcomed the Grieps into their modest apartment, the initial visits proved challenging: the families did not speak each others' languages. Fortunately, the family's older daughter could translate. The Grieps learned that "their" family was Muslim. Due to strife in their country, they had lived for an extended period in a refugee camp. When they arrived empty-handed in the U.S., each had received a coat and a backpack. The Grieps sensed immediately that the family had many needs.

    Photo: The Griep Family

    Read Full Story

    News From DGT

    If you live in the Twin Cities, join us at the Mall of America for the Hands on Twin Cities Volunteer Expo on Saturday, February 23, anytime between 10 am and 4 pm. Meet representatives from over 100 nonprofit organizations who work with volunteers. Be sure to stop by DGT's booth in front of the main entrance to Bloomingdale's. Hope to see you there!

    For Twin Cities residents: Sign up for our free monthly list of family volunteer opportunities. We canvas the Twin Cities to compile a creative roster of fresh, timely family volunteer projects. Our list is ideal for families seeking one-time or ongoing projects. It includes five different family volunteer opportunities 10 months a year. Click here to sign up. Simply enter your email address in the box and hit send.

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