We're headed to DC-- and you're invited

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Canopy NWA is headed to Washington DC, March 15-16 to meet with our representatives.

As a country, we have committed to resettling 45,000 refugees this year, but so far, we are on pace to admit about a third of that. Here in Northwest Arkansas, we are supposed to receive 75 refugees—and we already know 40 of them by name—but so far, we have received 0. Zero. We want to know why. The refugee ban is over, the resettlement program is funded, so where are our families? We have been asking and haven’t gotten any answers, so we’re headed to Capitol Hill to find out… And we want YOU to come with us!

Here are the details:

WHEN:  March 15-16
HOW MUCH:  $300-$450 per person + a few meals.
Why the price range? Well. If we get 40 or more people to sign up, we can charter a bus to drive through the night March 14 and back again March 16 ($200 per person). If we have a smaller group, we can fly in on March 15th and out on March 16th ($350 per person). Either way, we’re going to keep it as inexpensive as we can by reserving an affordable place to stay. And we encourage you to fundraise for your trip if you need a little extra help!   
WHAT:  Advocacy training, hill visits with our congressional delegation, and maybe some museum visits if we have time.
WHO:  Anyone! We’d love to get a large and varied group together: pastors, employers, college students, families with kids (8 and up). For our part, we’ll be bringing along some staff as well as some of our refugee clients, who are eager to share their stories on Capitol Hill.
WHY: We have 40 refugee men, women and children who have families, co-sponsor teams and employers waiting for them here in Northwest Arkansas. We need to find out why they aren’t traveling. We need to bring them home.  

Interested? Here’s what you need to do:

1) Fill out this brief registration form by February 2. Don’t worry—this isn’t a commitment, but it will give us an idea of how big a group we have, so we can start to reserve travel and accommodations, so please don't fill it out if you really doubt you can go. 
2) Attend one of two informational sessions at our office, 2592 N Gregg Ave, #40
             February 7 at 5 pm
             February 8 at 7 pm
By this time, we will know whether or not we can charter a bus and can give you a more precise estimate on cost.
3) Make a $200, non-refundable deposit by February 16 to reserve your spot
4) Pay the full balance for your trip by March 1.

Excited? We are too. Email Lauren Snodgrass if you have questions: lauren.snodgrass@gmail.com

Canopy to unveil art installation in Fayetteville

At 11 am on Tuesday, January 30, Canopy NWA will hold a press conference at St. Martin’s Campus Center (814 W Maple St.), to unveil a new temporary installation on the church’s property titled “Absence.” The installation will symbolize our community’s sorrow and frustration over efforts to hamper refugee admissions to the US—efforts that have kept 40 refugee men, women and children from being able to travel to their new home in Northwest Arkansas for over a year. Visitors to the installation will be prompted to join Canopy NWA in asking our elected representatives #WhereAreOurFamilies?

Following the unveiling, co-sponsors, refugee families and Canopy NWA staff will share stories of how restrictions to the refugee program have affected them personally, followed by time for questions from the press.

Canopy NWA will also participate in a prayer vigil at St. Martin’s Campus Center that evening at 8:15 pm, in collaboration with St. Martin’s, Good Shepherd Lutheran Church, Arkansas United Community Coalition and the NWA Justice Center. The prayer vigil will lift up all those affected by changes in policy to DACA, TPS and the refugee resettlement program, and will feature ”Absence” as a part of the liturgy. Media are invited to attend the prayer vigil as well.

The art installation will remain in place at St. Martin’s Campus Center from January 30 to February 27.

 

Where are our families?

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It has been 169 days since our community welcomed our last refugee family.

Since then, President Trump’s third and final refugee travel ban has ended and a new federal fiscal year has begun. After much deliberation, President Trump announced that 45,000 refugees would be admitted to the US in this new fiscal year (from October 1, 2017 to September 30, 2018). Canopy NWA was told that 75 of those refugees would come to Northwest Arkansas. But 4 months into Fiscal Year 2018, our community has received 0. None.

So we’re starting to ask: Where are our families?

In case you were wondering, this isn’t just an Arkansas problem. As a country, we’ve admitted 5,323 refugees so far. That puts us on pace to admit a mere 20,000 refugees this year—less than half of what was promised. That means that communities just like ours all across the US are asking themselves the same question: The ban is over, the president set a goal of 45,000, so why aren’t our families coming?

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We know 40 of our 75 refugees by name already. Some of them have been ready to travel for over a year. The Bentonville Church of the Nazarene co-sponsor team has been storing furniture in their church basement for a year, waiting for a family who should have been here long ago. Where are they? The Mwenda family has been waiting for six months for their two adult children who they were told would travel right behind them. Where are they? Little Josepha from Rwanda has celebrated her 5th and 6th birthdays in a refugee camp while waiting for her chance to travel. Why couldn’t she celebrate them here?

Where are our families?

We don’t know the answer, but we do know the facts. We know that the Department of Homeland Security has greatly reduced the number of employees it is sending to conduct security interviews and medical screenings in the refugee camps. We also know that the President has questioned why he would want to admit immigrants from “sh*thole countries” such as Haiti, El Salvador and African countries. This leads us to wonder whether this administration is actually making an effort to admit the 45,000 refugees they have been funded to admit.

It is time for us to hold the president and the people who work for him at the State Department and Department of Homeland Security accountable to admit the 45,000 refugees they promised. To do that, we need our representatives in Washington to join us in asking “Where are our families?” Our Members of Congress have the authority to ask why these agencies are on pace to admit less than half the number of refugees in their mandate. We need them to exercise that authority on our behalf.

Last week, our very own Congressman Womack was appointed to become Chair of the House Budget Committee. We are grateful and proud that our representative occupies this seat of power, because that puts him in the perfect position to act on our behalf on this issue. He has repeatedly emphasized his support for our work and our refugee families, so we ask him to join us is asking: Where are our families?

If you’d like the congressman to help us bring our families home, call his DC office today: (202) 225-4301

Hi, my name is ______ and I live in (City). I am calling on behalf of the 40 refugees who are supposed to be resettled in my community in Northwest Arkansas. Some of them have been waiting for over a year to travel here and have not been able to. The refugee travel ban is over and the president has determined the US will resettle 45,000 refugees this year, but only 5,000 have been resettled so far—and zero have been resettled in Northwest Arkansas. I’m calling because I’d like Congressman Womack to publicly ask the Department of Homeland Security “Where are our families?”

 

 

 

Stepping, Determined, into 2018

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Happy New Year, Northwest Arkansas!

We hope you all go the chance to take a break sometime in the last two weeks and spend some time with your families. 2017 was a big year for our community! It was full of challenges to our young refugee resettlement program: three separate refugee travel bans, cuts in federal funding, discouraging words from our elected officials about refugees and immigrants... But despite all that, we made some incredible things happen. Let's do a quick recap, shall we? 

          -We welcomed 55 refugees from 5 countries into our community
          -Students For Refugees hosted an incredible Mock Refugee Camp interactive exhibit, drawing huge crowds and attracting the attention of multiple national news organizations
          -Brightwater helped us throw our first ever Refugee Benefit Dinner-- and it was just as delicious and memorable as it sounds
          -We helped all our refugee adults find jobs-- and even some job upgrades! We now have refugees making an impact as teachers, mechanics, translators and cooks (and lots of other jobs too). 

AND to make it all that much sweeter, we closed out 2017 with an incredible end-of-year giving push:

We blew past our fundraising goal of $15,000 to close out the year with $19,000 in gifts, big and small. We definitely felt the love and our refugee families felt it too. To all of you who gave, we cannot thank you enough. 

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Now it's time to look ahead. We don't know what challenges lie ahead of us this year. We continue to get worrisome signals from our President and other elected officials that they do not support our work-- and we're not sure what that means for us. But whatever happens in Washington, here in Northwest Arkansas, we aren't slowing down! We've got a lot coming in 2018: new programs, new families and new ways for you, our community to get involved in this life-changing work. 

New Programs: We just completed a survey of all of our refugee families to learn where they continue to need assistance and support 6+ months after they arrive. As you all know, we currently only provide direct services to our refugee families throughout our 90-day initial Reception and Placement program-- but we know they still need our support after those three months are over. In our first year, that support has been ad-hoc-- we respond to their needs as they come up-- but in 2018, thanks to the helpful data we gathered from this survey, we are going to roll out several new structured programs that our families can access to help them along their long-term journey toward self-sufficiency and integration. We'll keep you posted on these programs as we roll them out, but for now, we can tell you that they will focus on three key areas: 

  • Ongoing Language and Cultural Training
  • Legal Assistance
  • Mental Wellness

New Families: We are waiting for 75 refugees to arrive in Northwest Arkansas in 2018. We know already 40 of them by name-- some of them, we've been waiting for for over a year. They come from all over the world and have fascinating stories: some have advanced degrees, some are young orphans, some just had babies, some just lost husbands. We watch their stories from a distance and we wonder: do they know how much we love them already? Do they have any idea how eager their community is for them to get here? 

New Volunteer Opportunities: As we roll out our new refugee programs, we're going to need new volunteers, so if you haven't yet, go to our Volunteer Page and create a profile for yourself so that as soon as new opportunities become available, you can sign up for them! 

 Together with you, our community, we are stepping into 2018 determined.

Let's welcome refugees home!

The ones we wait for

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.

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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.

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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.

Home

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From the desk of our director, Emily Crane Linn. 

I remember vividly that moment in the airport when I first laid eyes on our first refugee family. It was just before midnight on the night of December 14, 2016. I remember watching them appear from around the corner—no, I did not wait for them at the bottom of the escalator, by the baggage carousels; I was up on the second floor, with my toes right up against the DO NOT CROSS LINE, as close to their plane as I was allowed to go and wishing I could be closer. I saw them as they came around the corner in a neat little row, the mom on one side, the dad on the other, the two kids in the middle.

I saw them before they saw me. I saw the parents scanning the airport nervously for a sign that they had come to the right place, that there would be someone to show them where to go from here. Their eyes were narrow and afraid, their mouths taut. Then they saw our group with our signs reading “Welcome” in their native language and I watched their faces transform. Relief melted the furrows between their eyebrows and turned the tips of the mom’s mouth into a faint smile. Their journey was over. They were home.

I visited them in their new apartment the next day. Their co-sponsor team had furnished it beautifully, complete with toys for the children and a pantry overflowing with familiar food. It was warm and sunny and smelled like scented candles. The mother greeted me at the door. She was still visibly exhausted, with pronounced rings under her eyes, but her face looked relaxed and her smile was genuinely happy. She told me, “You know, we have only been here a few hours, but already I know that this is home.”

Home.

We take it for granted, but for a refugee family, it 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.

To date, with the help of our incredible community, we have been able to provide 55 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 2018. 

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