Mohammed and his three sisters wait patiently in the airport for their mother and youngest sister to arrive; the time is 2 a.m. The children are full of energy running around the baggage claim with balloons in their hands anxiously waiting to see their grandmother, whom some had never met. This family was separated by war, which caused them to flee their home country and leave everything behind to seek refuge in a neighboring country. They have experienced extreme loss in all sense of the word and after being separated for more than three years, they can finally begin to rebuild their lives together in the United States. As the grandmother and her daughter walk down the corridor, some are overcome by their emotion and begin to weep. When they approach, they kiss one another and hold a close embrace for several minutes. It was a very quiet yet powerful moment in their lives.
As I stand observing this emotional reunion, I cannot help but notice how their situation exemplifies the principles upon which this country was founded. Immigrants have shaped the social fabric of our society and I am proud to witness these principles being upheld and also partake in welcoming new neighbors in their first moments of living in the U.S.
Refugees are forced to flee their country of origin due to persecution based on their race, religion, nationality, political views or belonging to a particular social group. They likely have faced many risks and challenges along their journey in the hopes of building a better life for themselves and their children. When refugees travel to the U.S., this is merely the beginning of a journey in their new life, rather than the end. As we begin any new journey in our lives, the people that surround us influence our perspective our and experiences which is why community support is crucial to their success and well-being.
The CWS model of resettlement in the U.S. is a public-private partnership, which means private citizens can actively engage in welcoming newcomers and have the power to create inclusive communities where newcomers can contribute. The U.S. Refugee Admissions Program provides the initial financial support to partially cover the cost of providing refugees with basic necessities and core services during their period of resettlement and provides a pathway to citizenship. CWS is responsible for resettling approximately 10% of the annual 70,000 refugees approved for resettlement in the U.S. CWS partners with local nonprofits in 35 cities throughout the U.S. that provide the initial reception and placement for refugees to begin their new life. Each local nonprofit has developed partnerships with other local service providers and community members to provide services and welcome these new members of our society.
Since 1946, CWS has resettled over 800,000 refugees and continues to walk with those on their journey. With these years of experience in the resettlement and integration of refugees in our society, we know a kind smile from a stranger can go a long way in feeling acknowledged, invited and welcomed.
By Sierra Kraft, Program Specialist/Volunteer Engagement/CWS