The Episcopl Refugee Network is frequently needed to solve the many problems that a family faces when one member gets sick. A salary lost may mean the rent cannot be paid. It can mean having to decide between buying needed medication for Grandma and putting food on the table for several days. Even a week with no income may spell disaster for the family. Because few entry level jobs carry health insurance for employees, and able-bodied adults 18 and older do not qualify for government sponsored health insurance, many families are just one illness away from disaster. Sometimes there are other unexpected consequences, and often there is a lag of weeks between being declared eligible for government sponsored assistance and the actual arrival of the money.
Recently two Karen sisters were attacked by a man with a large knife when they were collecting a child from an apartment in a large complex, to take her to a nearby church service, in the City Heights area of San Diego. Both sisters suffered cuts on the head requiring many staples, and one also suffered damage to three fingers, including a severed tendon in one finger. A neighbor heard their screams and also had fingers cut when he let the three into his apartment and struggled to shut the door against the attacker. The police were called, the attacker was arrested and the three injured people were taken to hospital for treatment. The severed tendon required surgery, and the two sisters were in pain, and traumatized by the events. They live with their mother and brother. Only the one with the severed tendon spoke English well, and the two sisters provided the family income. One worked as a dental assistant and had medical insurance, but her doctor said she must be off work for 3 months. She now could not drive with her hand in a caste. The other worked assembling electronics. She would be eligible for health insurance when she had worked for 6 months. She had worked there for only 5 months. The Network provided emergency food for the family, blankets, help in working through the various reports and interviews that needed to be completed, and filling in forms so that assistance to victims could be accessed. Then the sister with the injured hand was required to be at the court hearing where the attacker would be formally accused. Such unfamiliar proceedings are daunting, even if you do speak English. The Network provides a volunteer who attend such hearings to give the refugee confidence, and to advocate for the refugee if necessary, especially where language and custom play a part in the reactions of the people concerned. This is the kind of situation which is not over in a short time. Sometimes fallout from traumas goes on for a very long time. And where there is a lag between the need to pay for medication and the arrival of funding from the Aid to Victim's Fund, the Network can provide interim funding. Until the sister with the damaged hand is able to drive again, the Network provides transport, and where translation is required, we also provide that.
While this is an unusual case because it began with an unprovoked attack, it illustrates the range of activities required for the Network to respond to the needs of new residents who find themselves in situations they have never before encountered, and involving laws and agencies with which they are totally unfamiliar. Because of the experience of the Network staff and the many volunteers, and because of the interest of those like you, who support us, we are making great progress toward helping more and more refugees get their feet on the bridge to self reliance, by building their self confidence. Please continue to visit us on the web, and if you are ever in our area, we would love to meet you and introduce you to the refugees we serve. We also welcome you to read our newsletters which appear regularly on our website.