“There are so many new people coming in.”
We were sitting in a staff meeting, sharing updates from every department.
“I just talked to someone new on the phone today who wants to come in,” another chimed in. “I just helped a new family get diapers last week,” our Birth Care & New Mom Coordinator said. “The story I heard from the new family I talked to today…”, another Care Coordinator’s voice fell off, feeling the weight of another’s trauma and journey.
It’s a lot.
Hours are spent listening, building relationships, scrambling to find jobs, or housing, or medical assistance to meet the unique needs of our refugee friends. Hours accumulate, as we wait on hold – transferred from department to department – trying to help resolve a worker’s comp claim, or troubleshoot 401(k) confusion, or a work through driver’s license debacle. Hours are spent working through marital challenges, advising on parenting in America, coaching people on what a credit score is and then how (and why) to build it up.
“Every person who walks through our door has a unique challenge, because they are unique people with unique circumstances.” Many of our Burmese and African friends have lived years in bordering countries or refugee camps after fleeing war or persecution, before they ever arrive in America. Most of our Afghan friends fled Afghanistan in a matter of days or weeks, stayed in military camps for a few months before arriving in Missouri. Many of our newest friends, the Ukrainians, arrive here almost immediately after fleeing their country.
Some of our friends know English when they come. Some of our friends are unable to read or write in their native language. Some of our friends drove in their home country, some of them have never ridden in a car. Some are acquainted with technology, but many have never had phones or tablets – let alone paid a bill online. We meet each of them where they are, promising to come alongside them and help them navigate a foreign culture with strange customs and different (and expensive!) food.
Our move into the new building wasn’t accidental – it was borne out of a necessity to meet the many more needs of the new individuals and families we see each week, not to mention the ongoing or new needs of those who have called Columbia home for months or years.
We love being in a location that’s centrally located, easily accessible, and that gives us room to grow so that we can truly come alongside new individuals and families as they wade through the uncertainty of living in America.
Look for the sign, next time you’re driving on Broadway.
Remember that you are part of making Columbia a City of Refuge for the thousands of refugees that are building a new life here.
We’re thankful for the partners who have already joined the A Place To Call Home campaign and for those who will help us reach our goal of becoming debt free in 2023.