Trinity’s What Can One Person Do group, with the full support and encouragement of the Vestry, is pleased to announce the launch of a new inter-faith refugee resettlement ministry in partnership with Newtown Congregational Church, and potentially other local faith communities in the greater Newtown area. This ministry would work with an organization called IRIS (Integrated Refugee and Immigrant Services) to resettle a refugee family in the greater Newtown area in the coming months.
While exploring this ministry, Trinity’s WCOPD group was stunned to learn that currently there are 60 million displaced persons in our world, with 20 million of them considered refugees since they had to leave their homes due to war, persecution, or unsafe living conditions. Of the 20 million refugees in our world, 4.5 million are from Syria alone. Currently, the US accepts about 70,000 displaced persons per year, with about 500 persons per year being placed in Connecticut. In light of the current unprecedented immigrant crisis, IRIS has been asked to double the number of displaced persons that it will resettle in Connecticut this year. They are reaching out to congregations like Trinity to step up and lend a hand to one of these refugee families.
There are many reasons the WCOPD group feels compelled to launch this Inter-Faith Refugee Resettlement Ministry at Trinity. One of the strongest reasons is that there are numerous passages in our Scriptures urging us to have compassion for the “stranger” and “alien” among us:
The LORD your God is the God of all gods and Lord of all lords, the great, mighty, and awesome God who doesn’t play favorites and doesn’t take bribes. He enacts justice for orphans and widows, and he loves immigrants, giving them food and clothing. That means you must also love immigrants because you were immigrants in Egypt. (Deuteronomy 10:17-19 CEB)
When a stranger sojourns with you in your land, you shall not do him wrong. You shall treat the stranger who sojourns with you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34 ESV)
IRIS IS AN OUTGROWTH OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN CONNECTICUT
One of the aspects of this ministry that provides the WCOPD group with a good deal of confidence is that our inter-faith will be working with IRIS, an organization that has been resettling refugees here in Connecticut for many years. IRIS is a program of the Episcopal Church in Connecticut and is the local affiliate of Episcopal Migration Ministries and the Immigration and Refugee Program of Church World Service. IRIS resettles approximately 200 refugees each year from Afghanistan, Congo, Cuba, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and other countries.
Our inter-faith group will be responsible to raise $3,000 - $6,000 (this amount will be divided between the faith communities in our group) to provide up to 6 months of rental assistance, and to develop a strong, well-organized committee of approximately 10 people able and willing to devote 4 hours each per week for first 2-3 months after family’s arrival. Here are some of the types of support that will be provided by our group:
- Securing safe, affordable, fully-furnished housing in a neighborhood open to refugees, and with nearby public transportation, grocery stores, and entry-level jobs that do not require a high level of English
- Providing a warm welcome to the family when they arrive, meeting them at their point of arrival, and arranging for a hot meal their first day here
- Orienting the family to their new home and neighborhood and helping them find nearby, practical resources (clothes laundering; grocery shopping; banking, etc.)
- Coordinating family transportation including initially driving family members to medical appointment and job interviews, and helping them navigate nearby public transportation options
- Providing health care support, including identifying medical providers who accept HUSKY insurance and bringing family members to appointments
- Helping register children for school, and adults for English language classes
- Helping a family meet others from their community from similar cultures and/or countries and/or who speak the refugee family’s language
- Helping adults find jobs and become economically self-sufficient as soon as possible after arrival
- Providing coaching for the family on household budget management, managing resources, building a credit history, etc.
Our WCOPD group will be on the lookout for members of Trinity who have experience in some of the areas to lend us their expertise! Please contact Rick Chamiec-Case at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
WHAT COMES NEXT
For our next steps, our interfaith group will be filling out and submitting a lengthy, multipage application form/strengths assessment which IRIS will use to vet our group and make sure we are a good match for this type of ministry. If IRIS accepts our application, our group will engage in a day-long orientation training sponsored by IRIS, and work with IRIS’s co-sponsorship coordinator to conduct community research to ensure we would have access to the resources needed to support a family in the greater Newtown area. Once our group has been adequately training and prepared to IRIS’s satisfaction, we would be placed on a “ready to go” list to await an assignment of a family, which would likely be several months out at the least.
PRESENTATION TO THE PARISH ON SUNDAY MAY 1ST
To learn more about this ministry and possible ways you could plug into the work that lies ahead, please plan to attend a presentation scheduled for Sunday, May 1st at 9:00 am in the Undercroft. Our WCOPD group will also be speaking during the 10:00 am that Sunday morning (also May 1st) to share with you our vision of the vital link between our Christian faith and this ministry to help a refugee family begin a new life, regain hope and contribute to the vitality of the greater Newtown community. You can also view the material presented to the Vestry at its March 16 meeting in the video below. We look forward to seeing where this ministry leads!