RefugeeOne

RefugeeOne creates opportunities for refugees fleeing war, terror and persecution to build new lives of safety, dignity, and self-reliance.
Mar 11, 2015

Welcoming a Refugee Family to Chicago

The newly-arrived family at Chicago O
The newly-arrived family at Chicago O'Hare Airport

I recently signed up with RefugeeOne to mentor a refugee family from Rwanda. Mentors make weekly home visits to help newly-arrived refugees become self-sufficient and acclimate to American culture. Most mentors don’t get the opportunity to meet the family at the airport, so I was very excited to meet them and work with them from the very beginning.

The mother, Agnes, and her five children (ages five to sixteen) arrived at Chicago O’Hare Airport with only two small suitcases and travel documents. Along with RefugeeOne staff, I greeted the family with flowers, and we drove them to their new Chicago home. When we arrived at the apartment, I showed them how to turn on a lamp, use the shower, and work the stove. After eating lunch together, we left so the family could rest. They were exhausted since they’d been in transit for over 30 hours.

Two weeks later, I met the family for our first mentorship meeting. I was a little nervous, but as soon as the family heard the word “teacher,” they pulled out notepads with the alphabet written on them, and we spent the first lesson reading and writing the letters. After two hours of practice, Agnes and the three oldest children could recite every letter of the alphabet, except H (it’s a tricky one).

The next week, I took the family to a local agency to get clothes. Since the family arrived with a very limited supply of clothing, we ended up getting a lot of clothes. In fact, I wasn’t sure how we would carry everything! Fortunately, Agnes had an idea; she tied a jacket around the bulk of the clothes, then carried them on her head all the way home without dropping them.

The following week, the children and I colored together. Crayons and markers were a huge hit! Later, when we read a book about the alphabet, it was obvious that everyone had been practicing because they were much more confident. Agnes can look at words and sound them out very well. She likes to open the dictionary and read the words in English, asking what each one means. I translate with the help of a smartphone and hand gestures. Agnes and her children are eager to learn more, and I think they're going to do very well. I look forward to seeing the progress they make as they adjust to life in the U.S.

Note: RefugeeOne welcomed 447 refugees during Fiscal Year 2014. Juliana is one of 400 volunteers who assist RefugeeOne each year. If you’re interested in volunteering with RefugeeOne, visit our website at www.refugeeone.org and complete an application.

Agnes carrying clothes home
Agnes carrying clothes home
Agnes
Agnes' son playing with toys in his new apartment
Mar 11, 2015

Welcoming a Refugee Family to Chicago

The newly-arrived family at Chicago O
The newly-arrived family at Chicago O'Hare Airport

I recently signed up with RefugeeOne to mentor a refugee family from Rwanda. Mentors make weekly home visits to help newly-arrived refugees become self-sufficient and acclimate to American culture. Most mentors don’t get the opportunity to meet the family at the airport, so I was very excited to meet them and work with them from the very beginning.

The mother, Agnes, and her five children (ages five to sixteen) arrived at Chicago O’Hare Airport with only two small suitcases and travel documents. Along with RefugeeOne staff, I greeted the family with flowers, and we drove them to their new Chicago home. When we arrived at the apartment, I showed them how to turn on a lamp, use the shower, and work the stove. After eating lunch together, we left so the family could rest. They were exhausted since they’d been in transit for over 30 hours.

Two weeks later, I met the family for our first mentorship meeting. I was a little nervous, but as soon as the family heard the word “teacher,” they pulled out notepads with the alphabet written on them, and we spent the first lesson reading and writing the letters. After two hours of practice, Agnes and the three oldest children could recite every letter of the alphabet, except H (it’s a tricky one).

The next week, I took the family to a local agency to get clothes. Since the family arrived with a very limited supply of clothing, we ended up getting a lot of clothes. In fact, I wasn’t sure how we would carry everything! Fortunately, Agnes had an idea; she tied a jacket around the bulk of the clothes, then carried them on her head all the way home without dropping them.

The following week, the children and I colored together. Crayons and markers were a huge hit! Later, when we read a book about the alphabet, it was obvious that everyone had been practicing because they were much more confident. Agnes can look at words and sound them out very well. She likes to open the dictionary and read the words in English, asking what each one means. I translate with the help of a smartphone and hand gestures. Agnes and her children are eager to learn more, and I think they're going to do very well. I look forward to seeing the progress they make as they adjust to life in the U.S.

Note: RefugeeOne welcomed 447 refugees during Fiscal Year 2014. Juliana is one of 400 volunteers who assist RefugeeOne each year. If you’re interested in volunteering with RefugeeOne, visit our website at www.refugeeone.org and complete an application.

Agnes carrying clothes home
Agnes carrying clothes home
Dec 23, 2014

Wellness Program Success Story: A Family's Recovery and New Life in America

As we listen to the horrific news of ISIS’ terror campaign in Iraq, our hearts go out to Iraqis around the world. RefugeeOne is privileged to have resettled hundreds of Iraqi families and individuals in recent years. We’re glad to share this hopeful story of one of those families with you.

Several years ago, RefugeeOne resettled an Iraqi father and his two young children. When the man’s wife was unable to leave Iraq with the rest of the family, the separation threw him into a paralyzing depression. He had a nervous breakdown shortly after arrival, could not keep his job, and became unable to care for his children. The Illinois Department of Children and Family Services removed the children from his home and placed them in foster care.

RefugeeOne worked actively to restore this man and his family back to health. Staff provided extensive individual therapy and coordinated all aspects of his care with the court-appointed social worker and family therapist, foster parents, court attorneys, and a psychiatrist. The efforts led to measurable improvements. Program staff, his psychiatrist, court witnesses, and the client himself recognized his improved mental state and ability to be a good father. He achieved self-identified goals for recovery, learned English, looked for employment, and complied with therapy. Over time, he no longer needed medication. He became less focused on basic survival and moved to planning for the future. 

We are overjoyed to report that with the help of RefugeeOne, his children were returned to him with full custody and that after two years of separation, he was reunited with his wife. When she arrived at O’Hare Airport, she was welcomed with tears of joy by her husband, daughter, and son.

The parents are now focused on their children’s health and education, and the children are excelling in RefugeeOne’s after-school program. Thanks to RefugeeOne’s services, this family’s dark hours and hopeless days are behind them, and they are living their daily lives with mental and emotional health. We feel honored to be part of this story of recovery and new life.

Thank YOU for being part of this story. Your gifts to RefugeeOne make it possible for refugees to build the foundations for flourishing lives in the U.S. 

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