If you’re new to the world of refugee resettlement, you may wonder what it entails. If you’re already involved, you know there’s always more to learn. In this spirit, we share a recent update from Syracuse, New York, where EMM’s affiliate, InterFaith Works of Central New York (IFW), leads the work of welcome. Take a moment to reflect on Beth Broadway’s call to the greater Syracuse community; to extend a hand to their newest neighbors. We think you’ll find it as compelling as we did. Many thanks to Beth and her colleagues for the work they do day after day and for allowing us to repost her letter here.
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To Our Friends and Supporters:
As I make my way around the community these days, many people want to know how things are going with the resettlement of refugees. Here are a few facts, and following that, some reflections:
- The U.S. has determined to settle 125,000 refugees across the nation in FY24 in response to the many world crises and the large numbers of people who being housed in refugee camps all around the world. Many refugee families have waited for very long periods of time in refugee camps (even as much as 10 or more years) until a slot opened for them.
- InterFaith Works will resettle more than 600 people this year and more than 800 next year. We are gratified to be able to help a larger number of families make their way to the U.S. and to a new life. Syracuse has settled this many people in a single year, in 1984 and in 2019. With the demand for workers, we can do this again, alleviating a great deal of human suffering for those who have had to flee and those that have waited in the cramped quarters of a refugee camp. At the same time, these new families represent the future for our community.
- During the recent snowstorm that shut our city down, our staff and volunteers set up 22 apartments in 21 days – a testament to their commitment and tenacity!
Settling refugees takes the “village” of our resettlement city. To effectively settle refugees, our agency must find safe, affordable, and accessible housing. We must have the support of the County Health Department and the medical community to make sure that refugees have the immunizations AND the on-going medical care that they need. Our schools must be ready to receive students of all ages, and to be able to provide them with supports in reading, writing, and speaking English quickly so that they can catch up grade-wise and succeed. Adults need access to programs so that they can learn English, and job readiness training. Within the first year, the New Americans will need help obtaining jobs and documents, completing immigration paperwork, addressing asylum and other legal issues.
Syracuse is generally in very good shape around these systems and their ability to meet the varied and complex needs of resettled people. But we are aware of the delicate balance that must be struck to ensure that our community can handle what is being asked of us.
The families who come will build our city into its next generations, bringing their work and family ethics, their desire for freedom, and their varied skills. They give us hope for the future. And we give them hope for their futures.
To make the decision to leave one’s homeland is one of the most difficult choices ever made. To leave one’s home, land, family, business, animals, customs, documents, wealth, bank account, and to flee across borders to relative safety is frightening, heartbreaking, and confusing. To throw oneself and one’s family on the mercy and kindness of strangers takes a kind of trust that many of us do not have. To learn a new language, let alone a whole new culture, takes intelligence and grit. To take a lower-level job, learn a whole new trade, work a day and a night job, without a car or adequate bus schedule is a drudge.
But hundreds of thousands of people do this every year. Why? To give their children a better chance. To save their lives. To believe in the future despite the horrible past. Here, at Interfaith Works, we take seriously the work of settling refugees. We have faith in them and in the generations to come. In some profound ways, the refugees and asylees that help to make up the human fabric of our community embody the poet Rainer Maria Rilke’s words. Rilke wrote the clarion call for refugees:
God speaks to each of us as he makes us, then walks with us silently out of the night. These are the words we dimly hear: You, sent out beyond your recall, go to the limits of your longing. Embody me. Flare up like a flame and make big shadows I can move in. Let everything happen to you: beauty and terror. Just keep going. No feeling is final. Do not let yourself lose me. Nearby is the country they call life. You will know it by its seriousness. Give me your hand.
With appreciation for our community’s support,
Beth A. Broadway
InterFaith Works of Central New York