Episcopal Refugee Network of San Diego

To provide assistance to refugees in San Diego County who have been forced from their homeland by racial, economic and religious persecution, and who have needs beyond those that government funded resettlement agencies can provide, in order to help them to be self sufficient, productive community members.
Oct 31, 2013

Welcome news

A University student tutoring a Sudanese refugee
A University student tutoring a Sudanese refugee

When I answered the phone I immediately recognised the voice - a member of a very large family, that had been helped by the Refugee Network during various periods of stress over more than 12 years.  This time there was no anxiety in her voice for any of the extended family, but wonderful news about how so many of them had built on the  the help they had received from the Network and had taken advantage of educational opportunities which had put them well on the way to making a success of their lives.

The Network had been particularly anxious about the the 7 children who were of school age when the family first arrived.  Besides providing beds, clothing, food and household items, the Network provided special advice to the two oldest daughters and the oldest son, and individual tutoring for three  younger sons and a younger daughter, to develop their writing and comprehension skills, and to assist in their understanding of word problems in Math.   Two joined the turoring groups that the Network was running for Southern Sudanese refugee children, and two younger ones were doing well once they became old enough for elementary school.

The Network provided boots and uniforms for one high school child to play on the school basketball team and one on the football team, and hired an instrument for the child at junior high school so she could be in the school music program.  Once the two oldest girls turned 18 they took jobs and left home, as did the older boy, but he stayed in the area and was a frequent visitor at the family apartment. The two boys who had been tutored both went on to Community College where the football player received help from the Network with books and equipment, and the oldest boy also attended Community College to improve his job skills.  He reported that he would not have had the incentive to do that, if he had not received encouragement from the volunteer tutor from the Network, who had been working with his brothers.

The news that most delighted the Network staff and volunteers, was that the junior high school student who had shown such promise, was now a freshman in University.  She had been encouraged by the aunt who had telephoned, to carry on her education, and to stay near her mother as support, when her father died recently.  The aunt reported that, as a freshman, this daughter was developing into a very self-reliant and capable young woman, and felt sure that the assistance she received from Network volunteers was the firm basis on which her educational success had depended. 

As new families arrive, each is visited by Network staff and family members' needs are assessed.  It is always so encouraging when we hear of successes that result from our interventions, that set young people on the path to preparing themselves for a brighter future.   Without those interventions it is difficult for those who arrive as teenagers with no English language skills to make any headway at school. That makes it very difficult to prevent their dropping out and joining the ranks of the unemployable.  It enthuses us when we receive reinforcing phone calls like this one.  

Every year the Network impacts the lives of at least 2,000 refugees, of whom 1,333 are under the age of 21.  Your involvement makes a huge difference in the successes of those whose lives we touch together.  Many many thanks to all of you who have provided support for this program.

We  particularly would request your involvement in our effort to raise $3,000 from at least 30 individual donors between 9p.m. on Saturday November 30, 2013, and 8.55p.m. on December 31st (Pacific Time)                      through our project site on Global Giving.  This will make us eligible for consideration by a corporate donor interested in educational opportunities for young people.   Since that aspect of our work is the one many of you have told us drew your attention, please let us know how you think we can best reach others like you, who would be enthusiastic supporters of our work.  And please encourage your friends and colleagues to look at our project on the Global Giving web site, and help us to reach our December target , of at least $3,000, from at least 30 different donors.

We would love to qualify for a bonus by being one of the top 9 fundraisers in this first-ever year end campaign at Global Giving.    Can you help us?    Together we can continue to make a major difference in the lives of these new Americans, who face so many hurdles on their way to self-reliance.                                                                                                                               

The football player, graduating from High school
The football player, graduating from High school
Jul 23, 2013

Birth in a New Country

Last week, visits to two mothers of new babies gave a new perspective on the complications refugees encounter in their transition to life in a new country.  Both mothers had given birth before, but in different countries, and under very different circumstances.  The Karen mother, whose previous children had been born in a refugee camp, was overwhelmed by the pre-natal check-ups - something neither had experienced before.  The time, the need to arrange transport and translation, and the check-ups themselves were unexpected.

The Sudanese mother was struggling to believe that germs that you cannot see can cause sickness and death.  A volunteer from the Refugee Network provided materials, demonstrated more thorough cleaning and storage procedures, especially in the kitchen, and provided containers for storing rice and cereal.

Both mothers were traumatized by having to be in a hospital for the birth.  In their experience before coming to the United States, anyone entering a hospital was unlikely to come out alive. The birth process, not assisted by female relatives, was something they could not even imagine.  Then they could not leave the hospital without a car seat, even though they did not own a car!

The process of obtaining a birth certificate was also puzzling. They did not know the actual date of birth of any of their previous children, only the season.  Now there are check-ups both for the mother and the baby, and a host of new requirements to be adjusted to, as the baby grows.

In these transitions, the presence of trusted guides, supporters, and outreach workers who can translate, makes a huge difference.  

Apr 30, 2013

Basic Building Blocks

A Darfuri mother
A Darfuri mother

Large Arabic-speaking families from Darfur have been among recent refugee arrivals in San Diego.  School children frequently arrive with no English, and often with no experience of formal education. If the only language they know does not use our alphabet, where do they begin?

An Episcopal Refugee Network's outreach worker delivering food to a Darfuri family, encountered a ten-year-old who begged to be taught "her ABCs".  She had been at school here for five months, but she was in a large class, where everyone else spoke Spanish.  She was beginning to pick up some spoken English, but had no way to learn how to read or write.  At school, she had been placed in front of  a computer, loaded with ESL programs, but she could not read anything on the screen.

The Network had three tutoring groups, which had been running for several years, serving mostly Karen-speaking children. Recently a new group was added for Darfuri high school students. We knew they would need one-on-one help, to understand homework assignments and to catch up on knowledge they would be expected to have.  The ten-year-old joined this group and now has the Network's ESL specialist as her special tutor.  She glowed with achievement as she took home her book with some of "her ABCs" already mastered, and some words she now knew how to read.

The next week, another ten-year-old, with the same needs joined the group.  We expect more junior high school children now, and a new influx of high school children with the start of the new school year, in August.  Bhutanese children, with a different language structure, and yet another religious background, will be among them.  It is a challenge, requiring variable lesson plans and materials, and willing volunteer tutors, who are good at listening and encouraging.  But the rewards are great.  As one tutor put it, "Where else do you get to see such a sudden burst of the light of understanding in someone's eyes?   And where else do you know so clearly, that someone now really believes he can succeed?"

Our outreach workers collect the children from their schools, in the Network's vans and bring them to tutoring, translate when necessary during tutoring, and drive the children home.  They are able to interface with the mothers, most of whom do not yet speak English, and to ensure that family members who need help get what they need. 

A big thank you to our donors, who provide necessary funds, and items and services that refugees in transition so greatly need.

Mother and child coming for food
Mother and child coming for food
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