What does it look like for our community in Northwest Arkansas to extend a Long Welcome to refugees?
We’ve spent over four months hearing from our refugee families and volunteers, researching best practices from around the country and strategizing with our community partners, seeking to answer that exact question.
And we’re excited to say we finally feel we have a vision for what that looks like. It’s ambitious, it’s creative, it’s courageous. It’s a vision for the sort of story we feel could only really come about in a place like Northwest Arkansas.
Our vision is for refugees and our community to model thriving together.
Long Welcome means our community makes space for refugees to participate, belong and lead, and in turn, refugees become full, contributing members of our community. It means refugees work together with long-time residents to make our community a better place to live—for students, entrepreneurs, single mothers, those experiencing homelessness, and yes, for refugees too. It means refugees understand and appreciate our community’s values and add their rich and diverse cultural heritages to them. It means one’s success is intrinsically tied to the other’s.
It means thriving together.
We’ve already seen this happening. We’ve seen that when our community invites refugees to play on their soccer teams, they lead them to victory. We’ve seen that when we advocate for better medical transportation for refugees receiving Medicaid, Medicaid transportation improves for everyone. When our community makes space for refugees to belong and lead, our whole community is better off as a result.
We know this vision of thriving together can become our story. We also know it’s a high target. It’s going to take all of us and it’s going to take a lot from us. But that was true three years ago too, when nearly a hundred of us crammed into the Fellowship Hall at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church on a sunny January morning to figure out how we could start a refugee resettlement agency in Northwest Arkansas. If we’ve learned anything from the last three years, it’s that the things that take the most from us a community are the most worthwhile.
Over the next two months, we’ll continue to work with our clients and community partners to put together a clear action plan for moving this vision forward over the next 3-5 years and we cannot wait to share it with you all. For now, what we know is that there will be lots of exciting changes coming and LOTS for you all to do.