Written by Phyllis Richards
Just a few weeks ago, the Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries (IRIM) office had the pleasure of handing over a set of keys to an evacuee family from Louisiana, survivors of the Gulf Coast Hurricane. The family has decided to make Chicago their new home.
"It is truly a joy to be able to walk alongside uprooted families such as this one, helping them to heal and rebuild their lives" said Kelly Johnson, Program Coordinator for IRIM. To date our office has worked with more than 41 households and families.
From day one, IRIM felt naturally compelled to offer help. The agency's 24-year experience serving the unique and sensitive needs of uprooted individuals who come to the US, has helped to prepare them to lend a hand to Americans displaced by the hurricane.
"Each of the evacuees has a unique and powerful story", explained Kelley. They come from diverse backgrounds and have different plans for the future. "Yet they all are amazing, as evidenced in their resilience in the face of loss and adversity."
Kelley recounts her first encounter with an evacuee family: "A young woman had been rescued from the roof of her home with her 10-year old son. They were put on a charter flight bound for Chicago and ended up at the Madden shelter in Maywood, IL. When she walked out of her room at the shelter to meet us, she immediately asked if we were the angels who are gonna get her out of there?" We talked with her to find out how best to help. She was desperate to get an apartment of her own and create a more stable environment for her son. This young woman with a sixth grade education operated a hair styling business out of her home. Now she is enthusiastic about continuing her education and finding work. She had already enrolled her son in school and started the job search. Within days of meeting this young woman, IRIM helped to find an apartment and secure a housing voucher and sponsor to help this small family begin to put their life back together.
Interfaith Refugee and Immigration Ministries is an affiliate of the United Church of Christ Office for Refugee Ministries. Refugee Ministries is supported by the One Great Hour of Sharing offering.