The Tewelde family has now been in the U.S. for six months! While we have only known them for about three months, this means that the support they have received through World Relief (and the federal government) is coming to an end. The two men in the family now have regular jobs which is definitely cause for celebration! Since they still qualify for community services, they have just enough income to make it on their own. That said, our relationships with them are absolutely vital.
The men pay their co-workers, fellow refugees, for rides to and from work each day. The boys ride the bus to school during the school year, and the family rides the bus to the grocery store and to appointments downtown (World Relief office). Members of our team drive them to doctors’ appointments, and help with scheduling and follow-up. These appointments are difficult enough if your English and understanding of “the system” are good, but simply impossible for our refugee friends alone. We have also provided transportation each morning and afternoon for the boys to go to the YMCA enrichment program at their school, where they also receive breakfast and lunch! They are having a great time at day-camp and their English skills continue to grow by leaps and bounds. We’ve helped the family sort through banking and paying bills. Imagine doing that without transportation, without a computer, and with limited English language skills!
Vacation Bible School has been a real joy this week! This was the family’s first visit to our church, and they have instantly felt welcome. Thank you CPC! The older two boys have participated in classes and “the baby” (he’s almost 2) has played in the nursery with Carolyn. Meanwhile we (Felicia and Sarah) have been teaching English classes with the adults. The men haven’t been able to come every night because of work, but the mom, who has been unable to attend English classes previously, is really soaking it up. We’ve been learning together! English is not simple. The adults’ education in Eritrea was limited, varying from 3-9 years of schooling, but the boys received about 4 years of school in their refugee camp in Ethiopia.
We also learned that they know a lot about the American way of celebrating Christmas because they had seen some American television. We can’t wait to show them the Tanglewood lights! We drew Inessa (who with her family came here as a refugee over 20 years ago) into the room and were able to talk about the Russian Orthodox and Ethiopian Orthodox celebration of Christmas. We know we have a lot we can learn from these friends!
Thanks to your contributions through the Peacemaking Offering, we are going to buy the children new shoes (not hand-me-downs, and ones that fit) and we will see that they are well-outfitted for the start of school.
The family will be at the Dash baseball game with us, and later, as we are able to provide transportation, you may see them at other events. Don’t hesitate to introduce yourself and express your welcome to them. Smiles and handshakes are great expressions of the love of Christ, and our welcoming hearts!
This week’s update on our family from Pakistan is unexpected yet exciting news nonetheless! Penny Welty writes:
It is with very mixed feelings that I share with you the Ayub family has made a decision to move to California to be near family friends from Pakistan. Since their arrival, their long term goal has been to relocate to California so that the girls could all pursue careers in homeopathic medicine and be close to friends from Malaysia that immigrated to California a year or so ago. Recently they reconnected with some old family friends from Pakistan that they had lost touch with for many years. This family now lives in Bakersfield, CA. They have offered for the Ayub’s to come in July and house sit for them (rent free) for 3-4 months as they are traveling home to Pakistan to be with family there. This family runs a salon and while they are away, the Ayubs will run the salon and have the opportunity to collect all the profits during that time. They have spent these past few weeks trying to discern the best future for their family and have decided this is an opportunity for them they should not pass up. They will be close to people who have a shared history with them and whom they consider family. And they will be able to enjoy a similar climate to Pakistan in a town that has a strong Pakistani community.
The Ayubs will be leaving on June 27th. Binish and Mahwish will learn the family business and what needs to be done for the home while their friends are away. Munzza will be caring for some children that their friends take care of with the help of Ali. Maria will continue to work on her GED. They are hopeful that they can save some money during this rent-free period and secure permanent jobs and move on toward fulfilling their goals as there is good opportunity for work for all the family once they relocate. Most importantly, they hope to be able to continue working to get the children’s father/Munzza’s husband to join them in CA from Pakistan where he has been for the last 7 years due to health issues.
World Relief (with our help) has been able to assist and guide the family through many of the important initial steps in acclimating this family to their new country, helping them adjust and find a welcoming home in the U.S. Their records are being transferred to a World Relief office in California which will remain in contact with them and offer guidance.
The entire family is so very grateful for the support that CPC has provided and while they are excited about this new opportunity, they are all sad to leave the friendships they have made here. This family has touched the lives of our Good Neighbor Team members in powerful ways and it will be hard to say goodbye. Munzza, Mahwish, Binish, Ali and Maria will be missed. Please continue to lift them all up in prayer as they make yet another journey to another new place.
Some of my favorite memories growing up in Winston-Salem involve trips to the Children's Museum. Climbing through magic carpets, playing dress up, cooking gourmet meals in the plastic kitchen, the Museum seemed magic to my 8-year-old imagination. When I found out last week that the Children's Museum (now called Kaleideum) was hosting an evening of free admission to refugee children, I knew we had to get the kids there no matter what!
Friday afternoon, Diane and I loaded the family in our cars and headed downtown. We were the first group there, so after being greeted warmly by an employee at the door, I realized...these kids had run of the whole museum! I don't know who was more excited. The magic carpets I climbed on as a kid were right by the door, so while one boy was thrilled to climb and tumble through the structure, the older one tugged my sleeve to explore the library. I've got the scars on my elbows to prove that no one was shy to climb through the giant hanging nets outside! The adults and kids alike had fun practicing their English in the alphabet zoo, though the baby was more interested in dancing to the beat of the hammer coming from the giant letter H! As more refugee children arrived, the parents chatted and the kids played dress-up together no matter their language barriers. I can't thank the people of Kaleideum enough for opening their space to this community. They have created free passes for any refugee family to go to Sci Works or the Children's museum for free. I'm constantly in awe of how welcoming the people of Winston are to these families. The kids were so mopey to leave, but I know there will be many more summer adventures at Kaleideum!
Written by: Sarah Hoyle
In the fall and winter a calling heard by a few church members evolved into authorization by our Session to call together people interested in supporting refugees in our community. With what could best be described as a mighty working of the Holy Spirit, around 27 people responded and received training (including background checks) to partner with World Relief, a local and national nonprofit that works with the government to ensure refugees are comfortably settled and connected to supportive community networks. The overwhelming volunteer support meant that we could work with not one, but two refugee families. After an initial pause as government changes occurred, both teams were assigned families and a whirlwind of action began.
This link to a video published in November of 2015 explains the vetting process for refugees which our two families have been through: https://youtu.be/aQUIxQ6TFZc . The World Relief/HighPoint.org web-site also contains a lot of information about this wonderful, faith-based organization and what they do. World Relief handles most initial settlement following federal guidelines using both federal and private funds.
The role of our Good Neighbor teams is to support this process, primarily as builders of relationships. We have the incredible privilege of being the literal hands, feet, smile---and often “wheels” of Christ, offering welcome to the stranger and being the good neighbor to those Christ has brought to us. Both families live in Winston-Salem as World Relief guidelines include their living on bus routes for ease of transportation. Each family receives financial assistance (federal and private) for a few months upon entry which covers housing and basic needs. They are to be financially independent within six months of arrival which means that quick employment is a basic need…..and World Relief helps facilitate that. English lessons are also a requirement for those who are not proficient---unless health or employment makes that not possible.
The Ayub family is originally from Pakistan and is comprised of a mother with her 4 adult children. They arrived in Winston Salem on March 2nd from Malaysia where they had been living as refugees for the past 6 years. As is often the case, our team learned of their impending arrival only one week in advance of their coming with the changing government rulings adding to everyone’s stress. World Relief and our team worked quickly to set up a house they rent, arranging for them to have a stocked refrigerator and a home cooked Pakistani meal to welcome them. Several of our team had the very joy-filled responsibility of welcoming the family at PTI airport the evening of their arrival and providing transportation for them to their new home. There was an immediate connection of warmth and love that night between the family and the team that has continued to grow over the weeks since.
Many of our church members got to meet the Ayub family when they visited during the Cantata last month. All of the family really enjoyed the music and other elements of our worship. Several women in the family wore head scarves in accordance with their Muslim faith. They were very happy to have the opportunity to meet members of the congregation and to personally express their gratitude for the love and support they have received from our church family.
The Tewelde family arrived in January but did not have a Good Neighbor Team until they were assigned to us in late February. Some delays prevented our meeting them until mid-March----and we were immediately in love with this family of six. There is a husband and wife and three little boys (ages 20 months, 6 years and 9 years) along with a young adult male cousin. They are from Eritrea (formerly part of Ethiopia) and lived in an Ethiopian refugee camp for four years before being granted permission to come to the U.S. A simple clerical error by Homeland Security and Border Patrol resulted in an almost 3-month delay of the Social Security cards of the two men. Two of our team members (and a wonderful worker at the Social Security office) were finally able to figure out the problem. World Relief was quickly able to manage the correction and help both men find employment almost immediately after the arrival of their cards.
None of the family spoke English on coming to the U.S. but they are all quick and interested learners with even the baby speaking up in English to everyone’s laughter and delight! Learning English by Sesame Street is a legitimate and wonderful thing! Everyone gathers around Dr. Seuss which makes no sense when you get into it---but is a lot of fun.
The Tweldes are Orthodox Christian (Ethiopian), and we are eager to connect them with the Ethiopian and Eritrean community in High Point. We also hope to have them visit our church soon. With three children (in car seats) and three adults, transportation of the whole family is a challenge.
We want to tell you stories of these wonderful people who have been through so much in their
lives---but we also want to respect their privacy. As World Relief has told us, their stories, are THEIR stories to tell---but we are so happy to share in this part of their stories now, and we will continue to help you get to know them too. Please join us in praying that they will continue to find a welcome here and that we can know how best to help this place become their home.
Welcome to a new way for the Clemmons Presbyterian Church Mission committee to report and inform our church family (and anyone else who links in) about our mission outreach. This blog has various parts representing our various ministries and begins with what we hope will be regular updates on our refugee families.