Love the Person in Front of You

Last week, our church hosted a Community Conversation surrounding the Syrian refugee crisis, and we had a great turnout! About 50 people in attendance, with many new faces from outside our little St. Paul’s community.

We had a woman from Syria named Roushan share her story about resettling here in Connecticut. She came to the US with her husband and daughter after they were granted political asylum in 2012. They came with nothing and had virtually no support for three years. Her parents and siblings made the difficult journey from Syria to Turkey – crossing the Agean Sea on an inflatable boat to find refuge. Some of them have moved on to settle in Europe, others are still in Turkey. Roushan’s family is now scattered.

Roushan

Roushan’s  sister was able to work her way out of a Turkish refugee camp and into an apartment by selling these handmade scarves.

scarves

This is how she supports her family now. And at the beginning of this year, she was finally able to send her kids to school. All because of these scarves. Roushan sold more scarves at our event than she has ever sold before!

Roushan also made some delicious, authentic Middle Eastern food to share with us. Baklava, falafel, stuffed grape leaves…what a treat!

Middle Eastern food

We heard from the Quiet Corner Refugee Resettlement Group (QCRR). They work with IRIS in New Haven to support refugees in our area. So far they have resettled two families from Syria. They are ready for new families, but due to current policies in the Trump Administration, there are no families to support right now. Just a few weeks ago, I read this article stating that so far this year, the US has only accepted 11 Syrian refugees.

This video shows aerial footage of the destruction in Homs, Syria.

And this video is an aerial view of the Zaatari refugee camp, which is the largest in Jordan.

These videos show the magnitude of this conflict, the biggest humanitarian crisis since WWII. 5.6 million Syrian refugees have fled their country, with another 6 million internally displaced. 83,000 refugees alone are in the Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

Sometimes these numbers and the news headlines can make us feel paralyzed. They can make us feel like the little things we do won’t make a big enough impact. But we have to remember: we may not be able to change the world, but we can change the world for one person. We’re just going to start by loving the people right in front of us.

So, here are 7 ways we can help:

1. You can help Roushan by supporting her small business. She offers Middle Eastern cooking classes right in your home! For $40 per person, she brings all of the ingredients – you and your guests make a few dishes and then you get to EAT IT! What a fun night in! Contact me if you want more details about that: janamacdon(at)gmail(dot)com.

2. Mother’s Day is coming up! You can support Roushan’s sister’s business by purchasing one of her handmade scarves. Buy one for your mom and one for yourself! (I bought Earl bought me 2.)

scarves1

I’ll be selling these beauties at the Southeast School Spring Market:
THIS Sunday, May 6th
12-3pm
134 Warrenville Rd. Mansfield Center, CT.

If you can’t make it Saturday, but would still like to purchase a scarf, please contact me. I’ll make it happen.

3. Give a financial donation to IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services) in New Haven. Government funding for resettlement has been cut, so they are very much in need of financial support. Join their facebook page! They have a “Virtual Gala” going on tomorrow night (May 1), from 7:30-9. They’re calling it “the best party that never was!” You don’t have to buy a new dress – you don’t even have to leave your house, or your jammies!  If you give through the Great Give (an online giving challenge), your donation will be matched dollar for dollar. They’ll also have the potential to win an additional $9000. Check out their facebook page for more information on that.

4. Donate to WAIM and specify “climate change refugee needs.” Willimantic has had a huge influx of Puerto Ricans since Hurricane Maria. They are considered American refugees and they need our help too.

5. Educate yourself. Read up on the conflict, listen to refugee stories, learn from organizations who support refugees, look for public events in your community, practice hospitality by opening up your home to new neighbors in your community.

6. Become an advocate for refugees – write, call and petition government officials at every level.

7. For a global impact, make a financial donation to the Preemptive Love Coalition. They have boots on the ground in Syria and they are doing great work.

Imagine if. What would happen if we each just took one “next step?”

 

** photos courtesy of Nathan Oldham

 

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