It’s been five months since Safi and Watata last saw their son John or their daughter Leticia. On July 4, the two parents faced an impossible choice: they could leave the refugee camp with nine of their children for a new life in the US, but leave behind two of their adult children who were not allowed to travel; or they could stay and keep their family together, but resign their other children to continued squalor in the camp. It was an impossible choice, but Safi and Watata chose to go ahead on to Northwest Arkansas on the promise that John and Leticia would follow right behind.
Five months later, they're still in a camp in Malawi.
A lot has happened in that time. Leticia’s husband died quite suddenly this fall, leaving her alone in the camp with her four children. Across the ocean, Safi and Watata mourned and fretted. One month later, Leticia gave birth to her fifth child. Across the ocean, Safi and Watata danced in their apartment complex garden. With every milestone, the distance has cut into their parent hearts like a knife.
“I just want them to come home,” Safi said. “I just want my children close to me again.”
John. Leticia and her five children. These are the ones we wait for.
When Safi and Watata first arrived in Northwest Arkansas, they were heartsick. They took little interest in our orientation and training; all they could think about was how much they missed their children. And who could blame them? Still, our director gently tried to help them see that just because they had to wait did not mean they had to be passive. “It is wrong that you have been separated from your children,” she told them. “It is wrong that you should have to wait for them at all. But since you must wait, make the most of every day to prepare a good home for them when they get here. Work hard every day so that when they arrive, they will not have to struggle.” And that is exactly what they have done. They have worked hard to improve their English and have learned how to navigate their new home. Watata found a job and works as many hours as he can get to provide for his family. They are not just waiting; they are preparing.
And we are preparing right along with them.
This year, we are expecting 75 refugees. We already know 32 of them by name: Ziad, Dareen and their five children; Hussein, Khalsa and their three children; Kazibule, Ntompa and their three children. Chirocy, Kabembo, Josepha… These are the ones we wait for. These are the ones we prepare for.
We prepare by meeting with new landlords to search for their future homes. We prepare by further developing our job readiness curriculum so that the classes they take with us will be our best classes yet. We prepare by training our staff, co-sponsors and volunteers. We prepare by developing new programs to help meet their needs even after their 90-day Reception and Placement program is over (stay tuned for an update on this!). We prepare by meeting with our elected officials to clear the way for them to travel. We prepare.
All this work is vital to welcoming those 75 refugees that have been promised to us this year—but none of it is financially supported by our government. We only receive government funding after new refugees arrive at our offices, and it's been five months since our last refugee family arrived. So all this work-- everything we do for those who are already here and everything we do to prepare for those who are coming-- can only happen with your support.
So please. Give a gift this week for Ziad, for Chirocy and for all those whose names we don’t know yet.
Give a gift this week for the ones we wait for.