Canopy NWA first convened six months ago-- back before we were Canopy NWA, back when we were still just a group of Arkansans searching for a way to help refugees. At our first little meeting in December, we thought it might be years before we would see refugees land in Arkansas... Most of us thought we were laying groundwork for others to build on after us. We contacted Lutheran Immigrant and Refugee Services, one of 9 licensed resettlement agencies in the US, to let them know of our intentions, expecting them to tell us to buckle in for a long process. To our surprise, they told us that they actually had an immediate need for new resettlement sites and that our region sounded promising and could we submit an application by the middle of May?
And so, just like that, we found ourselves with 2 months to do what he had planned to do in years. We reached out to dozens of churches from a wide range of denominations, to our region's biggest employers, to our local government, to our schools, our hospitals and our nonprofits and we began weaving a broad network of support for Canopy NWA. In the midst of this, we had a site visit from LIRS: a jam-packed week of meetings with and LIRS representative and key stakeholders in the region, in which we had to convince everyone that bringing refugees to Northwest Arkansas was a good idea. And in the end, we did-- because it is a good idea. Our meetings that week only served to cement that for us.
And so Canopy submitted a proposal to the State Department in May to become an affiliate office of LIRS and resettle refugees in Northwest Arkansas. We'll find out in the next few weeks if our proposal has been accepted... And if it is, we'll be rushing forward, full speed ahead! We've been told we could receive our first refugees as early as November. Before then, we'll need to hire two full-time staff members, find money to pay them (you can totally help with that, by the way), set up an office and recruit a list of committed co-sponsors to help us welcome the refugees when they arrive. We'll have our work cut out for us...
So now is the time-- now more than ever-- for you to get involved. Check out our TAKE ACTION page for a full list of volunteer jobs, but below are three ideas:
1) Assemble a refugee co-sponsor group at your congregation, club, or neighborhood. To do that, first download the co-sponsorship handbook: (a) for churches; (b) for organizations. Then, read through the co-sponsor covenant, sign it, and return it to Canopy. You can send all signed covenants to Emily Linn at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also contact her with any questions you have about the process!
2) Participate in advocacy efforts or donate. These are honestly some of the most important ways you can support this work. Email your congressman, email the governor, get your church fired up, take time to engage with your friends and family about this issue.
3) Join us for the next general meeting of Canopy. Because Canopy is now developing as a regional initiative, we will host general meetings two Mondays in a row. Pick the one that is most convenient for you!
- On July 11th, join us at Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Fayetteville.
- On July 18th, join us at First Presbyterian Church of Bentonville
If this is your first Canopy meeting, we invite you to join us at 6:30 p.m. for a new member orientation. We'll provide you with some backstory on how we got started and what we've been doing. Everyone else, please come at 7 p.m. We'll give you a general informational update on the flurry of activity at Canopy over the last month and then we'll give you more details on how you can participate in next steps.