3 Ways YOU Can Help Welcome Refugees in 2019

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Happy New Year, everyone! We have so much to look forward to in 2019 as a Canopy community:

·  As many as 56 new refugees will be joining us this year, from all over the world, including Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda and others.

· As of this month, we are now certified to assist our refugee clients—and any of our other immigrant friends and neighbors—in applying for and maintaining legal immigration status and reconnecting with family members.

· Thanks to our amazing community partners, we’ll be able to offer our families community workshops, health literacy seminars and activities, women’s empowerment programs and more.

And that’s just a sneak peak of all that’s come—we’ll have a full post for you about our plans for 2019 soon.

Bottom line: it’s going to be a full, exciting year for our community, our refugee families and our organization and there are LOTS of ways for you to get involved right from the start!

Here are 3 ways you can help welcome refugees in 2019, starting TODAY, right here in Northwest Arkansas:

  1. Form a co-sponsor team. You can form a team from your workplace, your school, your church—or just a group of your friends. We’ll match you with a refugee family in our pipeline and you’ll join us in preparing for their arrival. Once they’re here, you’ll become their first friends and you’ll mentor them for the first six months in the country as they learn how to navigate their new community, get plugged into resources and find jobs. This is a life-changing, life-giving experience that you do not want to miss! If this sounds like it might be for you, email Lauren Snodgrass at lauren.snodgrass@canopynwa.org to sign up for our next co-sponsor training on February 2.

  2. Mentor a refugee child in our after-school program. The After School Buddies Program needs volunteers for the spring semester! You will be matched with a refugee student and will meet with them one afternoon a week to work on English, learn about US culture, help them with their homework and mentor them. This program is run by Students for Refugees at the University of Arkansas, but you do not need to be a college student to volunteer. Anyone 18 and older is welcome to apply. If you are interested, please email Amanda Fleming at agf001@email.uark.edu for more information.

  3. Join us in advocating for refugees on Capitol Hill! Two years into this work, we can see how much value refugees bring to our community in Northwest Arkansas. We need YOU to help us share those stories with our lawmakers in Washington DC to ensure that refugees are allowed to continue arriving here in the years to come. The future of the refugee resettlement program is in peril: we went from receiving 85,000 refugees in 2016 to 22,000 refugees in 2018.  And meanwhile, the number of refugees in need of new homes is going up—not down. We have jobs for them here, co-sponsors ready to help them integrate and a community of established former refugees to show them the way. All we need is for our lawmakers to keep the door open for them to come here. Help us make that happen by joining us in Washington DC! Find out more about the trip HERE—then join us at one of two information sessions we have coming up January 16 and 17.

2019 is the perfect year for YOU to start playing an active role in welcoming refugees to our wonderful community. Help us change the lives of our refugee families, strengthen our community and grow our impact. We promise you’ll never be the same.

Thank you

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Dear friends,

Thank you.

We are flabbergasted, overwhelmed, and completely and utterly delighted to let you know that together, we obliterated our end-of-year fundraising goal of $15,000. 
Together, we raised nearly $29,000 in the month of December. That's almost a third of our entire annual fundraising goal. In one month.

Thank you.

Together, as a community, we welcomed 71 refugees in 2018. They came to us from El Salvador, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Ukraine and Honduras, fleeing gang violence, civil wars, genocide and political persecution. They brought us Bibles, bachelors’ degrees, babies; new languages, foods and ideas. And you were there for them.

You were there at the airport when they wandered down the hall, their eyes scanning the space for any sign of welcome. You were there at the hospital when their children were sick and scared and nearly dying—and when their children were born, little bundles of American hope. You were there in line at the DMV, in the enrollment center at NWACC, in their living rooms in the early hours of the morning and the late hours at night. Guiding them, learning from them, welcoming them. Loving them.

Thank you.

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Together, as a community we helped 14 families become financially self-sufficient this year. We placed 20 adults in jobs as truck drivers, factory workers, housekeepers and nurses. But they didn’t stop there. We saw get them get GEDs, enroll in college and get their CDL licenses. They traveled to Washington DC to speak with their elected officials and created a nonprofit to meet the needs of other refugees still in camps. Their children made the honor roll, played on the school soccer team and recited the pledge of allegiance in front of the school board.

They brought their work ethic, determination and dreams. You carved out a place for them here.

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Thank you:

For volunteering nearly 700 hours
For driving over 800 miles
For furnishing 17 homes
For raising over $100,000

Thank you:

To our teachers who worked long past quitting time to make sure our children could thrive
To our police who collected Christmas presents and groceries to bring to our families just so they knew they were loved
To our doctors who lovingly nurtured bodies young and old and paid for prescriptions out of their own pockets when our families couldn’t afford them
To our college students who worked tirelessly to build support for refugees on their college campuses and in their communities
To our adult educators and English language instructors who dreamed as big as their students
To all the managers who gave our hard-working, determined refugees a chance
To all the workers at the DHS, DMV and Social Security office who processed the unglamorous paperwork. On time. With grace.
To all the volunteers who got up early, went out of their way, shared a meal, changed a diaper or otherwise sacrificed for the sake of a stranger.

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Thank you. It takes a community to resettle refugees. We’re so glad your ours.

Sincerely,

Canopy
 

 

 

The Gift of Home

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Jeremiah stood in front of the door, looking down at the keys in his hand.

“Go on in. This is your home now.”

My home. It was almost too much for Jeremiah to take in. It had been 23 years since he had had a home. Twenty-three years since his family had slept in an actual building with a door and a roof. Twenty-three years since he had held the keys to anything, since anything had been his.

He slowly unlocked the door and stepped inside, his wife and 8 children following behind. It was clean and warmly furnished. There were beds in every room, clothes in every closet. And all of it—every spoon, chair and sock—were theirs.

At long last, Jeremiah and his family were home.

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We take it for granted, but for a refugee family, having a home is life-changing. A permanent, safe place just for you, that is yours to come back to, yours to decorate, yours to live in for as long as you like. It’s a radical, beautiful gift. On average, a refugee family will wait 17 years for their chance at a home. Many will wait out those long years with only a tarp over their heads, with jerry cans of water in the corner to cook with and bathe with and a mat on the floor as a bed for the children. And all the while, they will wonder if their camp will be attacked, if their children will survive the year, if their food rations will be the same next month or if they’ll have to make do with less. So for those who make it, for those who last the long wait and clear the medical screening and pass the background checks, the simple gift of home changes everything.

A lot goes into creating a home for a refugee family. It usually involves dozens of people from all across the community and starts months before the family arrives. First, Canopy recruits and trains a co-sponsor team for the family. Then, the co-sponsors get to work collecting furniture, fundraising and planning for the family’s arrival. Once Canopy receives the family’s travel info, it’s a mad rush to find an apartment and get it cleaned and furnished in time for the family’s arrival; usually, we all only have about 2 weeks’ notice, but the co-sponsors leap right into action and always do an incredible job! Then, the day of the family’s arrival, our case manager runs through the apartment one last time to make sure everything is ready, the co-sponsors cook up a hot meal for the family and then everyone heads up to the airport to welcome the refugees to their new home.

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To date, with the help of our incredible community, we have been able to provide 125 refugees with a safe, comfortable place to call home here in Arkansas. Of course the physical dwelling itself is only the beginning-- refugee resettlement is so much more than a roof and a bed-- but for a family that has known nothing but a tent for the last decade, it is an incredible gift.

Help Canopy continue to give the gift of home to all the refugee families who will arrive in 2019. 

Our average family’s rent for one month is $600. This week, we’re looking for 14 people or groups to give that amount— one for every household we resettled in 2018. But if you can’t give that much, give what you can! Every contribution makes a difference.

 

The Gift of Empowerment

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 When refugees find out they are going to be resettled in America, they start to dream—and they dream big. They know of America as the land of opportunity, where anything is possible anyone can have the chance to make something of themselves. So they dream big.

And to us, that’s what refugee resettlement is all about: Helping refugees build their American dreams.

When Denys found out he and his family were going to be resettled in America, he immediately knew what he wanted to do: he wanted to be a truck driver. He had always had a thing for big machines. In his home country of Ukraine, he worked as a mechanic, repairing trucks, tractors and other large machinery. But it was never enough to provide for his family, especially not once the corrupt local government took their share of his pay. But he had heard that in America, if he could learn to drive big trucks over long distances, he could provide his family with a warm, beautiful home and give his children a future. So that’s what he decided to do.

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Canopy’s case manager, Francisco, had barely finished showing Denys and his family around their new house last June before Denys started asking him about truck driving. How could he get a Commercial Driver’s License (CDL)? And when could he start working? And how much did he think he could earn? After years and years of waiting, Denys was ready to get started. 

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He sat down with our director of employment, Khalid, and the two drew out a plan. First, Denys would need a regular driver’s license, and he would have to wait a few months for all his documents to come through in order to apply for one. In the mean time, Khalid would help him enroll in English class and study for the test. So that’s what they did. Denys and his wife biked to English class every day and studied the driver’s manual together regularly. By the time Denys had all his documents in place, he knew it front to back and he passed the test on his first try.

One month later, he enrolled in a 4-week CDL training program in Springdale. As soon as he had finished, he took the test and passed that one on his first try too. Within days, Khalid started getting pictures from Nebraska, Illinois and California as Denys drove his truck all across the US.

Denys’ American dream is coming true.

Together with our co-sponsors, employers and educators, Canopy has helped 19 other adults take steps toward their American Dreams in 2018. We’ve helped a young woman to become a Certified Nursing Assistant on her way to becoming a nurse. We’ve helped a single mother sign up for an online computer programming class so that she could eventually get a job in the technical support field. And we’ve helped our very first client enroll in college.

This coming year, help us to continue to bring our families’ American Dreams to fruition—and help us launch the dreams of those who have yet to come.

With $150, you can cover the cost of 3 weeks of job training for a refugee when they first arrive. We’re looking for 19 friends to contribute this amount this week— one contributor for every adult we’ve place in a job this year.

Give the gift of empowerment this season.

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The Gift of Childhood

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Maya (not her real name) had been here less than two weeks when she had to be rushed to the children’s hospital in Little Rock in the middle of the night. She was suffering from an intense attack of sickle cell anemia. Her misshapen red blood cells were stuck in her blood vessels and all across her body, her muscles were being deprived of oxygen. She was in intense pain and couldn’t breathe. At the hospital, the doctors gave her medication and made an appointment for her to see a specialist in two months.

Two weeks later, Maya was back at the emergency room. This time, she was admitted to the newly-opened Northwest Arkansas Children’s Hospital where she was able to see a pediatric hematologist the very next day. When he first laid eyes on her, he tearfully told Canopy staff that she likely would not have survived this attack in the refugee camp, but here in Northwest Arkansas, he could give her a new chance at life. He immediately took charge of her case: he ordered her an emergency blood transfusion and set her up on a holistic treatment plan. He turned things around for her. Now, Maya is thriving. She is responding well to treatment, doing well in school and can go back to just being a kid.

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This past year, Canopy was able to welcome and care for 34 other children just like Maya. Some of them were born and had lived their whole lives in refugee camps. Some were orphaned, having lost both their parents to war. Some had just narrowly escaped a life of gang violence and were joining parents they hadn't seen since they were toddlers. 

With your help, each and every one of these children was able to receive individual attention and care from a Canopy case manager: he let them pinch his hands while they got their shots, he met with their teachers to help craft customized learning plans, he helped them get set up with counselors so that they could start to heal from the trauma they had encountered.

We were also able to enroll 23 of these school-aged children in our After-School Buddies Program, thanks to an incredible partnership with Students for Refugees at the University of Arkansas. Through this program, the children meet once a week to work on their homework, practice their English, learn about American culture and meet one-on-one with a mentor. This semester, they’ve even been able to do a little bit of art therapy thanks to our friends at Art for the Heart.  

Thanks to his careful attention and the hard work of all the volunteers, tutors, teachers, doctors and therapists who have poured into these kids, they are all slowly seeing their childhoods restored. 

This coming year, we are expecting and waiting for 26 more children just like Maya-- and perhaps others we don't even know about yet. During this season of giving, we ask you to give the children who are here and the many children to come the gift of an education and a restored childhood. 

Help Abwe send some love (and books) to refugees in Tanzania!

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Abwe thought he was prepared to come to the US. He had trained as a nurse for the Red Cross and had experience working in microfinance and church ministry as well. He was smart, educated and adaptable. He felt ready for America and its challenges. But when he arrived, he discovered there was one key area where he was not prepared: language. For all his work experience and education, Abwe did not speak hardly any English. The cultural differences were also far bigger than he had expected. There was so much to learn and he felt so far behind.

That was when Abwe decided: as soon as he and his family were a bit more settled in the US, they would work to start a community center in the camp they had just left—Nyarugusu in Tanzania.

This community center would have a library with English books for all reading levels and a computer lab where refugees could access online English language programs to help them prepare for their journey to the US. His former church in the camp could spearhead the project and even recruit volunteer English tutors to help. All they needed was a little bit of funding to get started with construction and that’s where YOU come in.

Help Abwe and his former neighbors in Nyarugusu build their community center this holiday season in three ways:

              1) Bring English books for all ages and reading levels to the Canopy office anytime Monday-Thursday 9 am- 4pm so that Abwe can ship them to Nyarugusu. The books will go in the same container as the clothes, toys and feminine hygiene products that Majidi and Rehema are collecting.

              2) Consider donating to help cover the shipping cost and the cost of construction materials for the community center. The container will cost over $6,000 and the construction materials will cost $3,600. Abwe has already done a terrific job fundraising on his own and has gotten off to a great start, but this is going to take our entire community. Please consider giving what you can!

              3) Share this post! This is a big dream and it’s going to take our whole community to make it happen. Help us get everyone involved.