Why we need a Long Welcome

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Meet Zawadi.

She’s brilliant and brave. She arrived here in Northwest Arkansas 30 days ago, a single mom of 8, and she instantly stole our hearts. She radiates positivity, she’s fearless—and did we mention she’s incredibly smart? She’s soaked up English like a sponge and is already able to carry on basic conversations. She’s mastered our complicated public transportation system. She’s breezing through Job Club like it’s no big deal—even though she’s never had a formal job before. Before we know it, she’ll be able to get to and from the grocery store on her own, she’ll be dropping her kids off at daycare and then going to work, paying her own bills, and building a new life for herself and her family. She’s on track to get there by 90 days—which is good, because that’s how much time we have with her.

But what happens after that? There is so much more to life than being able to buy groceries, take your kids to and from daycare and go to work. How does Zawadi make those long-lasting friendships that sustain the rest of us? What does she do when one of her kids tells her he wants to go to college? How about when their family is ready to buy a car? There is so much more to life than what we can teach and give Zawadi in 90 days.  

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Then there’s Asim.

He’s young, ambitious and diligent. He has a high school diploma from his home country of Afghanistan, and he knows the sky is the limit for him here in America. His 90th day was this week. In the last three months, he too has wowed us with how fast he’s picked up English and how quickly he’s learned to navigate our community. He recently started working at Walmart as an overnight stocker so that he can continue to go to English class during the day while still helping to provide for his family. Somehow in the midst of all that, he managed to get his driver’s license two weeks ago. He’s checked all the boxes for where he and his family should be by 90 days and then some. He’s employed, self-sufficient, able to meet his basic needs on his own.

But that’s not enough for Asim. He didn’t come to America to stock shelves at Walmart. He has bold ambitions of going to mechanic school, getting his mechanic’s license and maybe running his own business one day. His dad wants to start a farm here. His younger siblings want to go to college. He’s hungry to make friends, to have a full social life again like he did before he had to flee his country. But at day 92, all those dreams are still so very far away.

Our vision is for refugees and our community to model thriving together.

That’s what we want for Zawadi and for Asim. We want them to thrive. And if that is truly our goal, then our work is really only just beginning. Resettlement is just the first step; it’s the Long Welcome that comes after where true, lasting change happens.

Over the last 5 months, we’ve been asking our refugee clients to help us define and map out what Long Welcome means for them. We asked them to tell us what it means for them to “thrive” here—and what obstacles currently stand in their way. We got the chance to hear from men, women and youth, from Congolese, Ukrainians, Iraqis and Cameroonians.

Now, we’ve taken what they taught us and we’ve run it past our co-sponsors, volunteers and community partners for their perspective, we’ve compared it to the latest research findings in the field of refugee and immigrant integration and we’ve worked with consultants to help us distill all our findings into a clear, coherent blueprint: our Long Welcome Plan.

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And friends… the time has finally come to share it with y’all.

We’re so excited. Mark your calendars for April 30th—the last day of our spring Community of Welcome fundraiser. We figured: what better way to wrap up this incredible month of community building than to unveil our exciting, bold Long Welcome Plan with our community? It’s ambitious, it’s challenging, and we’ll admit, it’s a little bit intimidating. But we know that in collaboration with you all, our Community of Welcome, we can make it happen.

So check back here April 30th for our most exciting update yet!

Or… if you can’t wait that long, sign up to join our Community of Welcome. In addition to all kinds of other perks, we’ll be giving our Community of Welcome members an exclusive sneak peak of this exciting new plan a full week earlier than everyone else. If you love the work we do, you believe in the idea of Long Welcome and you like being the first to know things, then help us reach our goal of 140 Community of Welcome members this month and sign up today.