I first became interested in refugee resettlement while working as an intern with a non-governmental organization in Washington, D.C. I was asked to assist in the preparation of an asylum case and while doing that work, I stumbled across a file on Sierra Leone.
What I found in that file changed me. I saw pictures of women and children with stumps for limbs. The caption under one picture read, “I had to bury my own hand.” There was one picture in particular that caught my attention. It was of a four year old boy and the caption under his picture read, “A family’s only survivor.” The boy was with sixteen members of his family when rebels attacked their home, accusing them of backing the government. All members of his family were killed.
The boy was later found by a nurse clearing the home of corpses. She heard whimpering coming from under one of the bodies and moved the body to find this little boy crouched in a fetal position. It was the little boy who had to identify the body of his father and he was so traumatized by the incident that he didn’t speak or eat for weeks following.
It was that little boy in his soccer t-shirt and sweatpants that made war real to me and I remember thinking, “I have to do something.” A few weeks later I attended an ecumenical conference and was seated next to an elderly Presbyterian couple. I talked to them about this little boy and they talked to me about their church’s experience with refugee resettlement. It was in that moment that I decided what I wanted to do with my life.
Not all of us will go into non-governmental work, but we all have an opportunity to do something, to help in some small way.
Last year Church World Service welcomed more than 7,000 refugees to the United States – refugees who were forced from their homes for fear of persecution based on their race, religion, national origin, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. We can provide support to these newcomers by partnering with our local CWS resettlement office to greet them at the airport, to help them learn English, or to assist them in finding their first job in the U.S. We can also advocate for immigration reform that upholds and improves protections for refugees and asylum seekers.
Sarah Krause, Deputy Director, Immigration and Refugee Program