February 29, 2024

13 of us sat in the circle, discussing the ways that this time together could truly be most beneficial. We represented Burma, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afghanistan, Eritrea, a Thailand refugee camp, South Africa, America. 

Our Refugee Advisory Council was gathered again – a group of identified leaders within tribes and communities that now reside in mid-Missouri. We created space for each person to share: Why should this group of people meet? 

One man articulated a strong desire for his kids to have “a better future”. The factory work he could handle… but for his kids, he wanted more opportunity for them. Could this Council be a place where he learns about those opportunities and shares with his community? Could the people in this room know about or have resources that he doesn’t yet know about? 

Another discussed the challenges of simply living in America. “Everything is new for us.” And as new people come, they are looking to those who have lived here longer to help. “Maybe,” he said, “this could be a place where we learn how to help others. Train us to be answer for them.” 

“We have the heart to help,” murmured someone else in agreement across the room. 

The overarching sentiment shared by all of them was that this space, this time together, it mattered. It was a place where they could learn about resources – both at City of Refuge and the broader community – and pass that onto their friends and family. It was a place where they wanted to be able to learn and grow. It was something they wanted to be committed to – enough to where, if they couldn’t personally be the one to show up, someone else from their community would need to. 

“City of Refuge is like our eyes.” As he elaborated, he continued to share how we help them to see what else is out there within the community. 

I loved the phrase. Because we can’t always provide direct assistance, but we can usually help steer them toward those in our community who can. It’s why our community partners are so critical. It’s why the hundreds of volunteers who make our programs run are so essential. 

Because, in some sense, we’re helping give sight to the blind. Through no fault of their own, we have thousands and thousands of people who had to flee their homes now living in our city. People who don’t know the culture, or the language, or the food, or how to do this or that. The list is endless. 

But, they are people who are committed to figuring it out. To learning it all, so they can help teach others. People who have the heart to help. 

My heart was full that day. 

I’m eager to see how this group continues to grow and form. I can’t wait to see how, yes, today we might be seen as their “eyes” but knowing the narrative will shift over time. As they are empowered and equipped, many of them will be that same resource for others in our community. 

Debbie Beal

Executive Director

Write with Us

I participated in our first ever poem-a-thon last year, hardly a poet, but having a great appreciation for written word. The daily prompts (written by all-star volunteer, Ann Youmans) helped create space to reflect and write. AND we were we able to raise over $4,000 through our committed poets! 

So, if you’re someone who thinks carving out a few minutes every day for a month to reflect and jot down scattered thoughts may be beneficial to your soul…? I’d strongly encourage you to join our Poem-A-Thon! Your commitment will not only impact you, but will impact refugees living in mid-Missouri. 

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