Refugee Family Update
October 2, 2017
With the start of school the English skills of our Eritrean friends are growing by leaps and bounds! Abraham, the quieter one who is now in 1st grade, is suddenly chattering away. Both older boys have become good at riding the bicycle----and another bike has been donated so they both have their own. Wudase, the mom, is now in English class at the boys’ school (Easton elementary) on Tuesday and Thursday mornings and the report from the caregiver at the school is that she is the star of the class! That may be because everyone in the class except Wudase speaks Spanish so that pushes everyone with their English. Wudase thinks it’s as funny as we do that she is going to be tri-lingual since she’s picking up Spanish words as well. Her English, though is suddenly blossoming and she’s very happy in the class.
Natinal, who just turned two stays at the school with the caregiver during class. I haven’t heard him speaking Spanish yet but his verbal skills are exceptional for a two-year-old……”Stop”, “sit down”, “no”, “hello”, “bye”---of course those words flow easily. The first time I heard him whining, “mine, mine” I thought he was being a typical two-year-old----and then I learned that is the Tigrinyan word for “water!”
The men continue to work hard at their jobs. Debesay has been working since the Spring for a company that is now operating out of High Point. He sews mattress covers. Sewing was a skill he brought with him from Eritrea though he had not used electric equipment. Now that he’s finished a period of training, he has gotten a raise and is very proud of his work. But it’s hard work as he is standing all day. Gobezai continues to work for Salem Baking (Dewey’s)-----making Moravian cakes and cookies which we all know and love! The whole family (including us!) likes that he gets to bring home products.
Some folks at CPC have recently said they are available to help with such things as transportation. And that’s good! We are taking Wudase to and from her English on Tuesdays and Thursdays and so far are able to handle it but we need folks to call if we hit a snag. Also, we would like to be able to bring them to church occasionally----on Sunday morning or even Wednesdays—and it takes two cars. If you’d like to be available to help with that, please contact the church office and they can let us know.
Please continue to remember this family in your prayers!
Felicia Stewart Hoyle
“Are we sponsoring a refugee family?”
My first thought when I was asked this question by a CPC member recently was that the communication about our family must not be getting to everyone-------so please be sure to share this blog update! But then the answer to the question is “yes, but not in the way you may be thinking.” The resettling of refugees is a very different process in 2017 from what it was a couple of decades ago. These days, when an individual or family is given permission by the U.S. government to come to the U.S. as a refugee, they are usually coming through a refugee camp somewhere in the world where they have been waiting for years. It is an involved process with extensive security checks. The U.S. government sets yearly quotas for the numbers of refugees who may enter. In January the President halved the number that was previously in place. That number was reached this summer so new refugees are not coming in. (“Immigrants” and “Asylum Seekers” are different categories from “Refugees”.)
Refugee resettlement is handled through various organizations across the country (I think there are 6 national groups, primarily faith-based) who manage the government funding and the initial resettlement program. The group working in this geographical area is “World Relief” so this is the group with which we partner. In January, over two dozen folks from our church received training to volunteer through World Relief. We ended up forming two groups. One group helped a newly arrived Pakistani family who has since moved to California. The other group was connected to a family from Eritrea (north of Ethiopia). The primary function of our teams has been to form relationships with the families. You can read previous blog posts to see how this has played out. You can follow the links that are on this page.
Now that our Eritrean family has reached the end of their assistance time with World Relief (6 months), we continue as friends with them, bound together by a mutual love, like family. They do not have a car so we often help with appointments and transportation. Their English is improving tremendously, but they still need help with things like calling the landlord for a necessary repair, follow-up with the doctor and getting set up for the start of school.
Just last week we used funds from our CPC Pentecost Offering to purchase school supplies and a bicycle for the boys. We did the purchasing after getting their immunizations completed and they were so excited! A couple of days later I took the boys and mom to their elementary school Open House, then suggested we go back over the supply lists and get their backpacks ready. The boys quickly brought their backpacks out of their closet and showed me they had already done it. Everything was ready on Thursday for Monday morning. Wow!
And then the bicycle-----the two older boys had apparently tried out a bike at the home of another refugee family and were eager to have one. They (boys and parents) insisted that they only needed one. We would have been happy to purchase two since the boys aren’t the same size but respected their wishes and bought one with training wheels, along with a helmet! What joy! (And we can purchase a second bike later.)
We had previously said that we would use the Pentecost Offering funds for summer programs for the boys, but these became available at no charge. Then we said we would buy new shoes (that fit!) but then those became available at no charge as well. And they are all outfitted in clothes too. We are then holding the funds to use as needed. I explained that while “Mama Felicia” had the joy of buying and giving the school supplies and bicycle, these were from Clemmons Presbyterian----and they say “Thank you very much!” with huge smiles and happy hearts.
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!
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
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.