Canopy NWA works to create a community where refugees are welcomed and equipped with all they need to build new lives.
At the height of the refugee crisis in 2015, dozens of us from across our community were heartbroken by the images we were seeing of innocent people washing up on the shores of Greece. We wanted to do something to help, but quickly found that there was no way for us to support refugees in Arkansas because there wasn't a resettlement agency in the state. While other states were taking in thousands of people a year, Arkansas wasn't effectively taking in any. But all across Northwest Arkansas, the grassroots interest in welcoming refugees only continued to grow. SO we decided to get organized and see what we could do to change that.
We first met in January 2016 in the Fellowship Hall of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church. There were over 50 of us at that first meeting and most of us had never encountered each other before. We came from Fayetteville, Bentonville, Siloam Springs and everywhere in between, from evangelical non-denominational churches and Presbyterian churches, the NWA Islamic Center, Temple Shalom and everything in between. Some of us were staunch political conservatives, some die-hard liberals. But we all instantly connected as we went around the room and shared our hearts for this matter. While we might not have had much else in common, it was clear we were all united on one thing: we wanted to provide refugees with a good, safe home here in Northwest Arkansas.
So that’s what we set out to do. We formed a nonprofit in February of that year and began organizing to meet the criteria to become a refugee resettlement agency. We decided to partner with the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service and they guided us through the process. It took an incredible amount of work by an incredible amount of people, but to our amazement, just a few months later, in October, we were officially designated as a refugee resettlement site. By December, we welcomed our first refugee families from Iraq and the Democratic Republic of Congo and we haven’t slowed down since!