Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Arriving in the US as a refugee means overcoming many more challenges

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Guest post by Mike Gehring

The words refugee and asylee may give the image of safety and the feeling that the worst is behind someone. But, for all refugees, arriving in a new home is only the beginning of rebuilding entire lives and the challenges are far from over.

In 2014, the UNHCR, its office on refugees, reported that 59.5 million people have been forcibly displaced worldwide. Forcibly displaced. That’s an astonishing large number of people who must begin the frightening, dangerous journey to find a new life in an unknown land. 

If those 59.5 million refugees and asylees all settled in one place they would represent the 24th largest country in the world.  The pure scope of that many people on the move dwarfs any refugee movements of the past.  Unfortunately, the pace of people being displaced in 2015 will  be even greater than last year

This link to the United Nations website provides the statistical data that graphically defines the worldwide refugee and asylee crisis: (http://www.unhcr.org/556725e69.html)

Thats where Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washingtons Refugee Center steps in. The growing unrest in many countries and continents around the world have made the last 10 years one of the most dangerous and difficult for indigenous people hoping and praying for a safe and secure life for their themselves and their families. More and more, their only path to safety is the difficult journey of emigration as a refugee or an asylee. 

The critically important work of the Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Refugee Services Center has never been more important. To better accommodate an ever growing number of refugee and asylee clients, the Refugee Center has recently moved to a larger facility with the Lawrence Street location.  The new facility is now capable of efficiently providing staff, volunteers and our clients with a broader range of counseling, training and support. 

Scott Lewis, the Enterprises, Education & Employment Department Director, said, "The Refugee Services Center is not a destination for refugees and those seeking asylum, but rather a starting point on a continuing journey to personal freedom and security."

A sample of Yosief's beautiful artwork.
Yosief, a political asylee from Ethiopia, has been a client of the Refugee Services Center for over a year. Since arriving in Washington, Yosief has had several minimum wage jobs.  Those jobs had the positive effect of a more rapid immersion into the life and culture of his newly adopted country.  Yosief was happy to be here.  His life was much improved but unfortunately, something critically important was missing in his life.  The heart and eye of the artist was calling for a chance to express his new happiness and joy.   

Yosief is a very talented artist. 

He credits the Refugee Center with helping him not only connect with a job providing steady income, but also the ability to pursue his true passion in art while he learns what it means to live in America. 

You can support the Refugee Center with a donation directly here or consider working with the Center has an employer by contacting them directly here

Monday, August 3, 2015

Five reasons why the #WalkwithFrancis pledge matters

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The Walk with Francis Pledge is off and running, with just under two months until the Holy Father visits Washington, DC, we are in a race to reach 100,000 people taking the pledge.

Here are five reasons why the pledge matters and why you (yes, you!) should take the pledge today:

1. This is the Washington-metropolitan region's gift to Pope Francis when he visits. 
It is common for visiting dignitaries to receive gifts, usually something fancy or rare. Certainly the Speaker of the House and the President will both offer lovely gifts when they get to meet the Pope. But what about all of us? The Walk with Francis Pledge (and the good works that come with it) is our gift. With a goal of 100,000 people taking the pledge, what could be a better gift for the Pope than to share with him the news of 100,000+ committing to pray for him, serve the community or act for social justice in his honor?

2. The pledge will make our community better. 
No matter what you do to carry out your pledge, you'll be making our community better. If your passion is working with animals, volunteer at a local animal shelter. If you care deeply about the safety and future of immigrants, volunteer with Catholic Charities or become an advocate. Or if you have an elderly neighbor, help out with their snow and leaf clearing this fall and winter. If you were moved by the Pope's recent environmental encyclical (Laudato Si), volunteer to clean-up at a river site or plant new trees.

3. The pledge offers you an opportunity to deepen your own spiritual life. 
So much of our day-to-day life passes in a blur. The pledge offers you a moment to step back and take inventory of what your spiritual health is. One of the very first things Pope Francis did was ask the entire world to pray for him. We can all do that.

4. The pledge is open to everybody - no matter your faith, where you live, or anything else. 
The reason Pope Francis has caught the world's attention so profoundly is simple: he walks the walk. He washes the feet of prisoners. He travels to the Mediterranean Sea to mourn those who have died fleeing violence. He even cares for the guards outside of his room! Pope Francis has reminded us all that no one is above service to others. And, when he stands outside of Catholic Charities in two months, we want to show him we stand with him in that service.

5. Do you really want to miss the chance to have your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter in front of the Pope?!
This is why the hashtag is so important: your social media posts using #WalkwithFrancis will be included in a book given to the Pope by Cardinal Donald Wuerl, as a token of the 100,000 people who have committed to service. In the age of social media, that's a pretty incredible opportunity!

So what are you waiting for? Take the pledge now!