August 13, 2013

Written by Emily Margosian, WRDA Communications Intern

Much of the debate surrounding Comprehensive Immigration Reform (CIR) comes from a lack of public familiarity with the legislation. As the issue becomes more imminent, people desire current information about the bill, but often don’t know where to turn.  At World Relief DuPage/Aurora [WRDA], we support the ongoing push for CIR, applaud the Senate’s decision to pass S.744, and look forward to a similar outcome in the House of Representatives by the end of the summer.

Due to the complexity of the issue, immigration reform digs up a host of emotions, questions, and uncertainties.  And over the years, a lack of action has resulted in a political stalemate at the federal level.  However, not only will CIR strengthen the economy, reunite families, and provide a tangible path to citizenship, but it will also help Christians uphold the Biblical mandate to “Welcome the Stranger.”

“This is an urgent moral issue,” says Matthew Soerens, U.S. Church Training Specialist at World Relief, “We are given Biblical principles that speak very clearly as to how we should treat immigrants in our country.” As a faith-based organization, we value compassion, morality, and family unity and believe that immigration reform and policy should take into account these values.

Scott Capp, a pastor at Village Bible Church in Aurora, has taken steps to discuss immigration reform with his congregation, and wants a more detailed understanding of the upcoming legislation. At a World Relief ‘Lunch N’ Learn’ session in June he said, “We want to do more than just talk about God’s love for others—we want to show God’s love as well. I hope today brings more clarity on how to practically address the issue.”

Capp is not alone. Many leaders and church members seek to understand CIR from a legal and moral standpoint, but don’t feel equipped to address the issue within their church or organization.

Cheryl Pacilio, Director of Local Serving at First Baptist Church, admits that her congregation seems insulated from the issue of immigration. As a WRDA volunteer for the past six years, Pacilio feels comfortable with the issues surrounding refugees but hopes to gain more insight into the reality of what the reform bill could mean for World Relief’s immigrant clients. “World Relief has provided us with quality information over the last six years. I want to be able to talk about welcoming our neighbors by educating first,” said Pacilio.

To help make information on CIR more accessible to our church and community partners, WRDA has hosted informational sessions throughout the summer.  In addition, WRDA co-sponsored a Bibles, Badges, and Business meeting in late June as a forum for law enforcement, business, and church leaders to discuss immigration reform.  Events such as these are just a few ways WRDA has sought to address the potential concerns and misconceptions associated with CIR.

Common Myths

  • Myth: Weakened Economy and  Loss of Jobs
  • Reality: A Stronger Economy

Economists agree that immigration reform is good for all Americans, not just immigrants. If done properly, CIR will reduce the federal deficit—not increase government spending. In a July 2013 report, the Congressional Budget Office estimated that the bipartisan immigration reform bill passed by the Senate in June would reduce the current federal deficit by 158 billion with net savings of 135 billion during the 2014-2023 cycle.

Catherine Norquist, Immigrant Legal Services Director at WRDA, agrees. “There would be huge economic benefits for our country if we do this,” she explains, noting that providing an accessible and defined path to citizenship would enable more immigrants to pay taxes—helping to combat federal debt, not increase it.

CIR will increase jobs, not only for immigrants, but for all Americans.   Immigrants fill a significant role in a range of American industries; however their presence as a labor force is not something to be threatened by,but welcomed.  “The best policy for the United States is one that sides with freedom and innovation, not restriction,” said the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in a June statement.

  •  Myth: Grants Amnesty 
  • Reality: Earned Path to Citizenship

Despite concerns, the bill’s proposed path to citizenship would not indiscriminately award citizenship to immigrants currently residing in the United States. The proposed CIR bill creates more flexible avenues for future workers to achieve citizen status, providing a pathway to earned legalization through a series of steps.

– Upon initial registration, people will have one year to apply for “Registered Provisional Immigrant [RPI] Status” and pay a $1,000 fee.
– After a six year period, people with RPI must apply for renewal and pay another fine.
– After 10 years total in RPI status, people can apply for Lawful Permanent Residency upon paying a $500 fee
– After three years with LPR status, individuals can apply for U.S. Citizenship, which costs $680
– Qualifying agricultural workers and individuals who are eligible under the DREAM Act may apply for LPR status only five years after receiving RPI status. Additionally, individuals who have committed a felony or three misdemeanors are not eligible to apply for RPI under proposed CIR legislation.

  • Myth: Open Border
  • Reality:  A More Secure Border

Furthermore, current legislation would address the public’s concern over border security. S. 744 would increase border security by establishing mandatory employment verification and an electronic entry/exit system, as well as  a 700 mile U.S./Mexico border fence with more border agents . Since 2000, illegal border crossings have decreased by 80%, according to a statement released by the White House this January. CIR’s proposed adjustments to border security and enforcement would cause further decreases in the number of illegal crossings by improving infrastructure at points of entry and enhancing investigative resources.

WRDA encourages all Americans to STAND with us on this issue— especially the Church.

“The Church should view immigration as a mission opportunity,” says Soerens. “It can do that with or without immigration reform, but it has too often allowed political narrative to shape how we view immigrants.”

Norquist agrees that it is crucial for the Church to engage with this issue, not pull away. “Our faith is based on a migration story. We are truly called to love people no matter their status. If we take Scripture seriously, it speaks specifically on how to treat the foreigner, with equality and acceptance.”

In addition, our Immigrant Legal Services staff or another trained staff member is available to conduct an informational meeting at your church or home. If you would like to  arrange a speaker, contact ILS directly at (630) 462-7660  To learn more about Comprehensive Immigration Reform,  click here to visit our ILS Advocay page.

June 20, 2013

Berhe Fisuh patiently waits at O’Hare International Airport.  Dressed-up for a special occasion and holding flowers he bought for his wife, Berhe keeps a watchful eye on the terminal doors eagerly anticipating the family he has not seen in 10 years.

In 2003, while fleeing war and violence in their home country of Eritrea, chaos separated the Fisuh family. All six family members were able to make it to safety in Ethiopia and be registered as refugees; however, Berhe ended up in one camp while his wife and children were located in another.  Now after waiting three years in the U.S., and three hours in the airport, Berhe was finally going to be reunited with his wife of 30 years and four children ranging in ages from 11-20 years-old.

In July 2010, Berhe was resettled by World Relief DuPage/Aurora in Wheaton, while the rest of his family remained in exile in a refugee camp in Ethiopia.  He believed that resettlement was the best option for seeing his family again and left the camp with the hope of a new start. As a result, he sought out the assistance of the Immigration Legal Services team at WRDA and filed his first Refugee Reunification Application in February 2011.  Berhe’s first application was denied due to the lack of proper documentation, which can be a problem for many refugees.  Poor translation and a difference in calendars, combined with rural living and an unstable environment, can make a birth or marriage certificate difficult to obtain or hold on to.

Over the course of three years, the ILS department was able to clear-up the discrepancies in dates and certify family relationships through the filing of affidavits.  After two more attempts and two more denials, Berhe finally received news that his family was approved and would be joining him in Wheaton with the arrival date of Wednesday, June 5, 2013.

“After the denial of two Immigration applications, multiple interviews, and DNA testing, Berhe’s family finally arrived!  It was a privilege for our staff to advocate on his behalf and see his family brought back together,” said Catharine Norquist, WRDA Immigration Legal Services Director

Prior to the family’s arrival, Berhe worked with his WRDA case worker to rent a larger apartment and volunteers from Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Naperville supplied a Good Neighbor Kit (GNK) to help furnish their new home with essential items.  According to WRDA volunteer Anne Wetz, she was excited to be able to help his particular family.

“All of the refugee families that I have the privilege of volunteering with are special, but to be a part of seeing the Fisuh family reunited after all this time was extra special,” said Wetz.

Since their arrival, the family has been settling in, getting to know the community, and getting reacquainted with one-another.

“When I saw my family again, I didn’t know them.  Now we are talking about past situations and about what happened in our home country,” said Berhe.

When the family was asked what surprised them the most about coming to the U.S they said, “The big welcome they received.”  From the WRDA staff and volunteers, to the Eritrean community in Wheaton—they have felt very welcomed by everyone.

Berhe will continue to work at the meat packing plant in North Aurora to support his family and in the fall, his wife, Haimont, and his two daughters, Fithawir 17 and Hiwet 20, will be enrolled in the WRDA  Job Readiness ESL Class with the personal goal of learning enough English to be able to obtain a Driver’s License and get a job.  With regard to the two young boys, Samuel 11 and Okbit 13, they are looking forward to enrolling in school in the fall and getting to know other kids.

Because the family was transported from the airport to their apartment building and has no access to transportation of their own, they have not been able to explore other parts of community; however, the Fisuh kids’ biggest dream for this summer would be to take a trip into the city and take a tour of Chicago.

 

May 21, 2013

“God gives us his grace to spend it on others through acts of compassion.” – Rob Bugh, Senior Pastor at Wheaton Bible Church

Each of us can point to an ancestor in our family who had to rely on another in order to come to this country.   For these immigrants, this meant fully trusting another, submitting to a process, and facing uncertainty—all in pursuit of freedom, safety, and the hope of new opportunity.  Today, immigrants have the same challenges.  In the face of personal tragedy, these individuals flee their home country—distressed and vulnerable— but still optimistic about the future.

In the Bible, there are over 90 references on how vulnerable people are to be treated, which is why from the inception of World Relief, the mission was clear— to work alongside and through the Church.   God has clearly given Christians a mandate on how to treat the poor, the outcast, and the stranger.  As the primary agent of bringing peace, justice, and love to a broken world the Church and World Relief can STAND for the devastated and the displaced together.

Over the years, World Relief DuPage/Aurora [WRDA] has built strong partnerships with local churches and pastors who faithfully give of their time and talents to welcome refugees and immigrants into their communities and congregations.  One longtime partnership is with Wheaton Bile Church [WBC].

According to Rob Bugh, Senior Pastor at WBC, the church became involved with WRDA simply because the Gospel compels Christians to love people—all people.  “We don’t have the luxury of doing anything but getting involved when there is a need in our culture or in our community, “said Bugh.

Furthermore, WBC could see how God was blessing them, which meant that they needed to be intentional about looking for ways to be a blessing to others—especially the stranger.  World Relief was an ideal fit for them because WBC believes that ministry can be sustained long-term when they partner with an expert organization that has more experience with a particular ministry or people group.

Locally, members of WBC volunteer as Friendship Partners helping newly arrived refugee families in DuPage County adapt to the new culture.  Globally, the church partnered with World Relief and Parklands Baptist Church in Nairobi to help create the Hope Kenya program.

Another key church partnership is Village Bible Church [VBC], Sugar Grove.  The connection with this church started in 2006 when their youth group pastor had a vision for youth reaching-out and serving other youth in the community.  As a result, a tutoring partnership developed between students in the youth group and refugee students resettled by World Relief in Aurora.  Their efforts caught the attention of the adults in the congregation, and a member championed an adult volunteer team. They began collecting items for Good Neighbor Kits, and in just six years, the team has been able to collect enough items for almost 50 kits, which translates into 50 fully stocked apartments for refugee families.

“Watching someone come into their apartment that we were able to stock for them and seeing the smile on their face is incredible,” said Scott Capp, Equipping Pastor at Village Bible Church, Sugar Grove.

Referencing Deuteronomy 10:19, Capp’s desire is for everyone to recognize that we live in a nation of refugees and immigrants and we were all new –somewhere at some point in time.

According to Capp, the local church has both an opportunity and a responsibility, to reach-out to and let their refugee and immigrant neighbors know that they are welcome and we are glad that they are here.

On June 23, WRDA encourages all local churches set aside a few minutes during their weekly service to not only celebrate the strength and determination of refugees and immigrants, but to also to pray and consider if God might be calling them as a congregation to partner with World Relief and STAND for the world’s most vulnerable people.

Resources and ideas are available for Refugee and Immigrant Sunday on the WRDA Website or by contacting Tommy Moore, Church Mobilizer, at (630) 462-1064 or tmoore@wr.org.

April 16, 2013

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.  Matthew 5:6 (NIV)                            

Imagine living in a hot, dry climate where drinking water is rationed.  For the residents of the Ali Addeh refugee camp in Djibouti, unquenchable thirst is a daily reality. Due to overcrowding and a regional drought, the refugees struggle to get enough water to sustain life.  But for one refugee, physical thirst did not overshadow his thirst for God.

After 22 years of exile, Arega Meshesha and his family came to the U.S. as refugees from Eritrea.  Although raised culturally in the Armenian Orthodox Church in Ethiopia (now a part of Eritrea), a hospital stay in 1991 was the first time Arega heard about accepting Jesus into his life.  Upon hearing the good news, Arega came to faith in Christ and dedicated himself to studying the Bible. However, being a follower of Christ in a country that identified itself as Muslim, was problematic.

Arega faced many challenges, but despite pressure from the government and imminent retaliation, he was able to study his Bible and go house-to-house sharing his faith.    Eventually, Arega became a pastor, and through the support of other area churches, was able to plant churches both inside and outside of the refugee camp.

Ultimately, Arega’s actions drew the attention of the Djibouti police and he was targeted.  They brought him to a deportation center and detained him as a way to suppress his preaching; however; Arega continued to share his faith.  While he was being held, the UN Refugee Service intervened on his behalf.   The family applied for refugee status and their petition was granted on the grounds of religious persecution.

After years in the camp, with no option of returning home, Arega and his family were resettled by WRDA in November of 2012. Knowing that speaking English was key, he and his wife were excited to learn English and begin ESL classes.   When asked why learning English was so important to him, Arega said that his life is the Church.  “The better my English gets, the more opportunities I will have to share my faith in Christ with others”.

Arega loves the people he has met in the U.S. and is currently praying about how God will use him here.  He believes that the Lord brought him and his family to safety in America so that they can continue to share the Gospel and teach others about the persecution of Christians around the world.    For now, he is thankful for his job packaging books and the opportunity to hold a weekly Bible study in his home without the fear of retaliation.  One day, he hopes to go back to his home country as a missionary because, even in the face of persecution, people are very open and Christianity is growing.

February 20, 2013

While grocery shopping in Wheaton one day, Marilyn Huffman, Early Childhood Manager for World Relief DuPage, encountered a child and his mother from her class.  Because *Sergio is normally shy, Huffman was surprised to learn from his mother that not only does he sing songs from class at home, but he also teaches his family so that they can sing together!

Without someone to care for their young children, many refugee and immigrant adults would not have the opportunity to learn English.  However, the Early Childhood Program (ECP) at World Relief DuPage / Aurora [WRDA] is more than childcare; it’s an opportunity for WRDA to serve the entire family. 

According to Karen Jealouse, WRDA Education Director, approximately 145 parents are able to attend ESL classes because their child is learning and being cared for at the same location. With the goal of preparing children—educationally, socially and physically—refugee and immigrant children are gaining the necessary skills to be successful upon entering school.

 “The immediate objective of ECP is to prepare the children for kindergarten, but the impact of the program is long-term and far-reaching, “said Jealouse.

Through a theme-based, multisensory curriculum, ECP provides the structure and routine that gets the child ready for the American school system.  In fact, teachers in the local school system have commented on the difference our program makes.   Some of the outcomes for the preschool age children include: early literacy, self-sufficiency, gross and fine motor skills, and the ability to recognize colors and shapes.

 

Furthermore, ECP is structured in such a way that parents are equipped to become their child’s first teacher.  Parents gain the experience of working with their child’s teacher on issues that surface in the classroom, and every Friday in Aurora, ESL parents are invited to participate in a special program designed to promote family literacy.  This program consists of a parenting class, a Parent and Child Together Time (PACTT), and a trip to the local library.

 In partnership with the Aurora Public Library, World Relief Aurora children are cared for while their parents enhance their parenting skills and learn about childhood illness, nutrition, and school readiness.  Next, the parents and children come together through the PACTT program to play games, make crafts or learn a song.  The morning closes with a trip to the library to hear a story and check-out books.  In addition, the group takes a total of six field trips a year to  locations like the DuPage Children’s Museum, Phillips Park and Blackberry Farm so that the parents become familiar with local kid-friendly places.    Selena Kurtz, World Relief Early Education Manager for Aurora, believes that children are like sponges; therefore the opportunity for them to learn alongside their parents is invaluable.

“Teachers encourage the parents to play the games that they learn at home as a way to practice English with the entire family,” said Kurtz.

Alongside the team of dedicated teachers, is a group of equally dedicated volunteers who give of their time to these families. Amy Danusiar has served as a volunteer in the ECP in DuPage for two years.  She got involved after WRDA made a presentation to her Sunday school class while they were discussing what it means to love your neighbor.  Because Danusiar lives in Wheaton, her children attend school with refugee children and she has witnessed firsthand their struggle to adjust.  As a result, she decided to volunteer her time, and now wishes that she had gotten involved sooner.

“God brought these kids from the ends of the earth to our neighborhood and they are precious.  We only need to go into our own backyard to make a difference, “said Danusiar.

Current guidelines mandate a 6/1 ratio for a preschool classroom, which has both DuPage and Aurora looking to increase volunteer involvement.  By integrating more volunteers into the program, classroom numbers can be increases and a greater number of adults will be able to participate in ESL and learn English.

Huffman indicated that long-term, she would like to add a family literacy program in DuPage, but the real need right now is for volunteers.  Unfortunately, there are 40 parents on a waiting list who cannot start the ESL program because they lack childcare.

Volunteers are needed for both the infant and preschool rooms, and for the family literacy program in Aurora. Classes meet four days a week from 9:15-11:35 a.m. and volunteers are asked to commit to at least one day per week. To fill the role of Early Childhood Aide, volunteers are asked to acknowledge the mission, vision and values of World Relief, be passionate about children, patient, and interested in learning about different cultural backgrounds.  To learn more or to begin the volunteer application process, contact Volunteer Mobilization Specialist, Jamie Daling at (630) 462-7566 X 1046 or jdaling@wr.org.   In addition, financial donations to the program are welcome.  Every gift makes a difference in the life of a child.

February 19, 2013

Meet Joann Holmen, Former Intern and Current Employee

After witnessing the day-to-day realities of refugees living in Jordan, Joann Holmen returned to Chicago determined to make a difference.  And three years later, through World Relief, Holmen has passionately served refugees as a volunteer, intern, and now as an employee.

As a student at Purdue University Calumet, Joann Holmen had a variety of multi-cultural experiences, including studying abroad in France and tutoring international students. However, it was a trip to Jordan that brought her life mission into focus.  In 2010, due to her Arabic language skills, Living Word Church invited Holmen to accompany them to Jordan where they planned to serve Iraqi citizens living in a refugee community.

“I was angry when I found out how long these people had to wait to get refugee status! Until then, they have no say over their own life,” said Holmen.

Holmen says that the trip opened her eyes to the refugee system, and as a result, she dedicated herself to learning more about refugees and the struggles that they face.

“When I saw what they were going through, I knew that I needed to help make a change,” said Holmen.

When she returned from Jordan, Holmen researched refugee organizations and began volunteering with World Relief Chicago [WRC].   She was assigned an Iraqi refugee family and immediately began teaching English to their adult daughter who was pre-literate.

“When we first met, the daughter was not able to read or write in her own language, so I would teach her words by doing an action,” said Holmen.

After two years of volunteering with this family, she wanted to increase her knowledge and be equipped to help refugees at a higher level.  The volunteer coordinator at WRC recommended that she contact World Relief DuPage / Aurora [WRDA] about an internship.

Holmen committed to a three-month internship with the WRDA Resettlement Team. After her initial training, her main focus was conducting Comprehensive Family Assessments.  Holmen conducted these assessments in the client’s home during the first few days after their arrival.  The assessments gave her the opportunity to talk with the clients one-on-one and assess their unique needs and priorities.

“During the first weeks of my internship with WRDA, I remember being amazed by the clients’ positive attitudes and their stories of survival,” said Holmen.

When her internship was over, Holmen was able to return to Jordan and work with Iraqi refugees again—visiting families in their home, participating in a community Bible study and organizing a fitness class for women. Upon her return, she interned at a medical clinic in Wheeling until Andrew Timbie, WRDA Resettlement Manager, contacted her about a temporary position with the medical case team.

Holmen’s background and commitment to serve vulnerable people made her an ideal candidate for the position.  In her new role, she helps clients get medical care and educates them on healthy living.  In fact, she recently started a weekly fitness class for clients in West Chicago.

“World Relief has given me a realistic view of refugees and the services they require.  Now, I can be a part of shaping the process and initiating change, “said, Holmen.

Meet Our Current Interns: Samantha, Nicole, Emilio, Michelle and Liz

   

 

Samantha Kubwimana

Immigration Legal Services and Youth Services Intern
Western Illinois University (Senior/General Studies)

Samantha arrived in the United States, with her family, as an asylee from Rwanda.  Through a connection of her father’s, the family came to Chicago in 2001 and resettled in Aurora.  Now she considers the U.S. home and recently became a citizen.  “I understand the application process for citizenship, so I thought I could use my experience to help WRDA clients.”  Samantha understands what it is like to start-over and assimilate into a new culture, which is why she also enjoys serving with the youth services team.  She believes that her background as an aslyee helps her to mentor the students from firsthand experience.

Samantha’s Internship Highlight:  Learning about different people groups and their culture.

Nicole Glynn-Mar
Volunteer Mobilization Intern
Aurora University (MSW Student)

With a background in corporate training and teaching, pursuing a Master’s Degree in Social Work is a career change for Nicole.  Knowing very little about World Relief DuPage / Aurora she applied for an internship with WRDA through the internship coordinator at AU.  “ From the time of my interview, I knew WRDA was here I belonged.”  As a teacher of autistic children, Nicole has always gravitated towards serving society’s most vulnerable, but her internship with WRDA has opened her eyes to a new population—refugees.  While Nicole’s professional goal is to be a school social worker, her secondary goal now is to make a difference in the lives of refugee children.  “As a school social worker, I can support refugee kids in the school and work to educate the community on the immigrant population.”

Nicole’s Internship Highlight: The opportunity to pick-up a refugee family from the airport. I now volunteer as their friendship partner.

Emilio Fischer
Volunteer Mobilization / Youth Services Intern
Aurora University (MSW Student)

Emilio applied for an internship with World Relief DuPage / Aurora [WRDA] after a professor encouraged him to look for an opportunity that would allow him to explore integrating his faith and work.  According to Emilio, as a social worker, it will be important for him to work for an organization that is in line with his personal values and beliefs.  And an internship with WRDA has confirmed this objective.  “I believe in living by example, and I desire to show the love of Christ to people through the way I live.  No matter where I am, my goal is always to welcome the stranger.”

Emilio’s Internship Highlight: Working on the Aurora Historical Society exhibit, which recognized the Bhutanese refugee community in Aurora.

Michelle Aguirre
Initial Resettlement Intern
Loyola University (B.A. 2012)

Michelle was first introduced to World Relief DuPage/ Aurora [WRDA] when she volunteered for a Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals workshop. She enjoyed working with the clients and immediately looked into becoming an intern for her “gap year”— the year in between college graduation and graduate school.  Now as an intern with initial resettlement services, Michelle is one of the first faces a client sees upon arrival.  Along with her supervisor, she makes sure clients have completed all paperwork, helps them register for ESL class and takes them to the store for essential items.  “I truly enjoy getting to know the clients!  Language can be a barrier, so I have learned to use a lot of hand gestures.”

Michelle’s Internship Highlight: The relationships I have built with both the clients and the WRDA staff.

Liz Stubbins
Immigration Legal Services Intern
DePaul University Law School (Third year)

After earning her undergraduate degree in International Studies from Kenyon College, Liz knew that graduate school was in her future.  She decided to pursue law school because she felt that as a lawyer she could help people on a “larger scale.”  Through the Immigration Legal Clinic at DePaul, Liz learned about an internship opportunity with World Relief DuPage /Aurora [WRDA] working exclusively with Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals [DACA] clients. After graduation, Liz plans to pursue a career in public interest law.

Liz’s Internship Highlight: Learning about the practical side of immigration law.

Click here to learn more about internship opportunities and to download an application

January 15, 2013

Meet Mary Hliang…Refugee and New Business Owner

During the initial resettlement phase, World Relief DuPage /Aurora [WRDA] focuses on meeting the refugee’s immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter. WRDA is also able to help refugees plan long-term…meet Mary Hliang.

Mary was one of the three original participants in pilot program that led to WRDA receiving the Childcare Microenterprise grant from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement.  The Childcare Enterprise program has two defining goals: give refugee women a business and help other refugee families by allowing both parents to work.

A natural choice for the program, Mary’s love for children began back in her village in Burma where she ran a pre-school, and then as a refugee in Malaysia, where she watched local children.  A teacher by trade, Mary has always provided more than babysitting.

By participating in the pilot program, Mary was able to complete the required state training and receive help writing her business plan.  In addition, the grant program provided Mary with start-up funds for supplies and contributed to the purchase of a van for her business.  Mary hopes to receive her license in February and then open immediately.

The Hliang family was resettled by WRDA in June 2009 and through the IDA savings program, Mary and her husband were able to purchase their first home in August 2012.  Now through the Childcare Enterprise program, Mary is able to return to her love of teaching and provide financially for her family.

According to Rebekah King, WRDA Asset Development Associate, Mary is passionate about her new business, especially the opportunity to work with refugee children.  Once open, Mary hopes to take up to five children and offer a curriculum that will prepare the children for the American school system.

Mary’s advice to other refugee women who might be interested in the program is to “go for it because it is a good thing for everyone.”  The Childcare Enterprise program is exclusively for refugee or asylee women, and all participants must have a high school diploma or GED to be considered for the state license.

WRDA received the Childcare Enterprise grant in October of 2012 and hopes to have 35 women participating in the program by September 2013.

Asset Development

The WRDA Asset Development Department assists refugee clients through three programs designed to help refugees in planning for their financial future:  Individual Development Account (IDA) Program, Childcare Microenterprise program and Ways to Work.

Each program helps the client achieve a financial goal by promoting self-sufficiency and financial literacy.

- Individual Development Account (IDA) Program matches participant savings for the purchase of assets and provides financial literacy. Participants can save for a home, vehicle, education or a microenterprise.
- Ways to Work, in partnership with the Salvation Army Metropolitan Division, provides an affordable car loan designed to help working families access reliable transportation
- Childcare Microenterprise assists female entrepreneurs with starting a childcare business in their home by providing child development training and start-up funds.

When a client is referred to the program, they meet with an asset development counselor to discuss their financial goal and open a savings account.  Then, as the client works towards their objective, they attend training sessions to learn budgeting principals and ways to establish credit.

“Asset Development is a pathway to long-term planning” said Laurel Opal WRDA Senior Asset Development Specialist. According to Opal, there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing clients reach their goal and move towards financial independence.

If you would like to learn more about these programs or know someone who might benefit, contact Laurel Opal, Senior Asset Development Specialist at lopal@wr.org (630) 462-7566 x1058 or Rebekah King, Asset Development Associate at rking@wr.org (630) 462-7566 x1016.

New Citizenship Classes

Each year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services Department awards Citizenship and Integration Grants to nonprofit organizations that serve permanent residents through citizenship instruction and naturalization services. World Relief DuPage/Aurora [WRDA] was selected as a grant recipient for 2012, which will allow WRDA to offering citizenship classes for two fiscal years.

“This grant is highly sought-after and competitive, so we are extremely honored to have received this funding,” said Karen Jealous WRDA Education Director.

The 2010 U.S. Census reports that  18% of the population in DuPage County is foreign born and in Kane County 26% of the population were born outside of the U.S., which shows that there is a clear need for citizen education services.  Furthermore, this grant will allow WRDA to meet the needs of low-income refugee and immigrant clients who are applying for citizenship.

In partnership with area churches, citizenship classes will be held in both Wheaton and Aurora and will be free of charge for those preparing for their naturalization test and interview. According to Jealous, participants can either attend classes twice a week for 12 weeks or be matched with a tutor.  Registration for classes in Wheaton will be held on January 15 and 22 at the First Baptist Church from 7-8 p.m. and in Aurora at First Presbyterian on February 11 and 14 from 7-8 p.m.

Volunteers are needed to help prepare these students for their naturalization interview, which tests both their English language ability and their knowledge of U.S. history and government.   Volunteer training for Classroom Aides and Tutors is scheduled for January 19 and April 27 in Wheaton and February 9 and May 18 in Aurora.  To volunteer, contact Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist at jdaling@wr.org or (630) 462-7566 X 1046.

New Ways to Volunteer with WRDA

With the start of new programs, there are also new ways to volunteer!

  • Citizenship Classroom Aide
  • Citizenship Tutor
  • Event Planning Assistant
  • Transportation Assistant
  • Speakers Bureau Member

According to Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist, one of the benefits of volunteering with WRDA is that you can serve in more than one area. In fact, three of the above positions (Event Planning Assistant, Transportation Assistant and Speakers Bureau Member) are considered “pool” opportunities, meaning that once you complete the training you can commit based on your schedule.

Another new addition to our volunteer program is the WRDA Volunteer Orientation Disc. This CD/ROM contains a variety of resources that empower both the volunteer, and by extension, the clients.   The information can be downloaded to your computer or consulted as needed.

For more information on these and other ways you can use your talents at WRDA, or to obtain your Volunteer Orientation Disc, Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist at jdaling@wr.org or (630) 462-7566 X 1046.

January 15, 2013

Meet Mary Hliang…Refugee and New Business Owner

During the initial resettlement phase, World Relief DuPage /Aurora [WRDA] focuses on meeting the refugee’s immediate needs of food, clothing and shelter. WRDA is also able to help refugees plan long-term…meet Mary Hliang.

Mary was one of the three original participants in pilot program that led to WRDA receiving the Childcare Microenterprise grant from the US Office of Refugee Resettlement.  The Childcare Enterprise program has two defining goals: give refugee women a business and help other refugee families by allowing both parents to work.

A natural choice for the program, Mary’s love for children began back in her village in Burma where she ran a pre-school, and then as a refugee in Malaysia, where she watched local children.  A teacher by trade, Mary has always provided more than babysitting.

By participating in the pilot program, Mary was able to complete the required state training and receive help writing her business plan.  In addition, the grant program provided Mary with start-up funds for supplies and contributed to the purchase of a van for her business.  Mary hopes to receive her license in February and then open immediately.

The Hliang family was resettled by WRDA in June 2009 and through the IDA savings program, Mary and her husband were able to purchase their first home in August 2012.  Now through the Childcare Enterprise program, Mary is able to return to her love of teaching and provide financially for her family.

According to Rebekah King, WRDA Asset Development Associate, Mary is passionate about her new business, especially the opportunity to work with refugee children.  Once open, Mary hopes to take up to five children and offer a curriculum that will prepare the children for the American school system.

Mary’s advice to other refugee women who might be interested in the program is to “go for it because it is a good thing for everyone.”  The Childcare Enterprise program is exclusively for refugee or asylee women, and all participants must have a high school diploma or GED to be considered for the state license.

WRDA received the Childcare Enterprise grant in October of 2012 and hopes to have 35 women participating in the program by September 2013.

Asset Development

The WRDA Asset Development Department assists refugee clients through three programs designed to help refugees in planning for their financial future:  Individual Development Account (IDA) Program, Childcare Microenterprise program and Ways to Work.

Each program helps the client achieve a financial goal by promoting self-sufficiency and financial literacy.

- Individual Development Account (IDA) Program matches participant savings for the purchase of assets and provides financial literacy. Participants can save for a home, vehicle, education or a microenterprise.
- Ways to Work, in partnership with the Salvation Army Metropolitan Division, provides an affordable car loan designed to help working families access reliable transportation
- Childcare Microenterprise assists female entrepreneurs with starting a childcare business in their home by providing child development training and start-up funds.

When a client is referred to the program, they meet with an asset development counselor to discuss their financial goal and open a savings account.  Then, as the client works towards their objective, they attend training sessions to learn budgeting principals and ways to establish credit.

“Asset Development is a pathway to long-term planning” said Laurel Opal WRDA Senior Asset Development Specialist. According to Opal, there is nothing more fulfilling than seeing clients reach their goal and move towards financial independence.

If you would like to learn more about these programs or know someone who might benefit, contact Laurel Opal, Senior Asset Development Specialist at lopal@wr.org (630) 462-7566 x1058 or Rebekah King, Asset Development Associate at rking@wr.org (630) 462-7566 x1016.

New Citizenship Classes

Each year, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigrant Services Department awards Citizenship and Integration Grants to nonprofit organizations that serve permanent residents through citizenship instruction and naturalization services. World Relief DuPage/Aurora [WRDA] was selected as a grant recipient for 2012, which will allow WRDA to offering citizenship classes for two fiscal years.

“This grant is highly sought-after and competitive, so we are extremely honored to have received this funding,” said Karen Jealous WRDA Education Director.

The 2010 U.S. Census reports that  18% of the population in DuPage County is foreign born and in Kane County 26% of the population were born outside of the U.S., which shows that there is a clear need for citizen education services.  Furthermore, this grant will allow WRDA to meet the needs of low-income refugee and immigrant clients who are applying for citizenship.

In partnership with area churches, citizenship classes will be held in both Wheaton and Aurora and will be free of charge for those preparing for their naturalization test and interview. According to Jealous, participants can either attend classes twice a week for 12 weeks or be matched with a tutor.  Registration for classes in Wheaton will be held on January 15 and 22 at the First Baptist Church from 7-8 p.m. and in Aurora at First Presbyterian on February 11 and 14 from 7-8 p.m.

Volunteers are needed to help prepare these students for their naturalization interview, which tests both their English language ability and their knowledge of U.S. history and government.   Volunteer training for Classroom Aides and Tutors is scheduled for January 19 and April 27 in Wheaton and February 9 and May 18 in Aurora.  To volunteer, contact Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist at jdaling@wr.org or (630) 462-7566 X 1046.

New Ways to Volunteer with WRDA

With the start of new programs, there are also new ways to volunteer!

  • Citizenship Classroom Aide
  • Citizenship Tutor
  • Event Planning Assistant
  • Transportation Assistant
  • Speakers Bureau Member

According to Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist, one of the benefits of volunteering with WRDA is that you can serve in more than one area. In fact, three of the above positions (Event Planning Assistant, Transportation Assistant and Speakers Bureau Member) are considered “pool” opportunities, meaning that once you complete the training you can commit based on your schedule.

Another new addition to our volunteer program is the WRDA Volunteer Orientation Disc. This CD/ROM contains a variety of resources that empower both the volunteer, and by extension, the clients.   The information can be downloaded to your computer or consulted as needed.

For more information on these and other ways you can use your talents at WRDA, or to obtain your Volunteer Orientation Disc, Jamie Daling, Volunteer Mobilization Specialist at jdaling@wr.org or (630) 462-7566 X 1046.

November 27, 2012

When Chris and his wife dreamed about becoming missionaries, they had a pretty traditional idea what that would look like.

“We thought we would minister around here for a few years, then we’d go overseas and be missionaries,” said Pastor Chris McElwee from Wheaton Bible Church. When a Muslim Iraqi mother and her five children arrived in the middle of Ramadan, their ideas of missions dramatically changed.

The family fasted during daylight hours.  They were up before dawn cooking all kinds of foods—aromas of soups and meat wafted through the house in the early morning hours. One night, after a few days of being woken up by early morning banging in the kitchen and working hard to help the family adjust and adapt, Chris and his wife were exhausted.

“We lay there awake in our bed, and we said, ‘We are missionaries.  This is what God has for us.’ We could never do in Iraq what we are doing now and right here.  This family has become our family.  Our kids know them.  We pray for them.  We celebrate birthdays, Christmas and other holidays,” Pastor McElwee said.

Pastor McElwee shares the heart of the church at large.  A heart to see people in the community growing and thriving—with a particular heart for the foreign-born.

MYCHURCH...

Wheaton Bible sends more than 90 missionaries—spending a quarter of the church budget supporting international outreach in 39 countries. A plan to send more than 20 missionaries to France to work with Muslim immigrants over the next five years, working closely with Greater Europe Mission, has really open the eyes of the congregation to the Muslim world.

Iraqi refugees have provided a great opportunity for families considering service in France to begin working with the foreign-born right in their own backyards.  In fact, working closely with a newly arriving refugee family has become a part of the required missionary preparation all Wheaton Bible’s prospective missionaries go through.

The partnership has engaged the church’s families, helping prepare them for missions and dramatically impacting World Relief’s work.

“After more than three decades of refugee resettlement in the area,” says World Relief’s Gretchen Schmidt in Wheaton, “our need to expand into new communities was significant.  The support of Wheaton Bible enabled us to help families resettle in a new area.”

Westwood Apartments

Just a couple miles up the road from Wheaton Bible sits Westwood Apartments, a complex made up of 90 percent immigrants and a growing Iraqi refugee population. In June, a young couple arrived with their 8-month old daughter. Within their first day, they had already been rushed to the hospital with stomach problems.

Around 15 Iraqi families have apartments in the community—and several served as translators for the American forces. Most fled for their lives, leaving behind jobs, families and an entire way of life. Each family that arrives through World Relief’s network is partnered with a family or individual from area churches, including Wheaton Bible.  They help them adjust, walk with them as they look for jobs, and ensure they become self-sufficient quickly. 

“The number one need for most of these families is relationship,” says Pastor McElwee. “And working with refugees has changed the lives of all the families that participate.  It’s enriched their lives.  They have learned about God.  It’s challenged them and it’s made them pray more.”

Pastor McElwee says working with Muslim families has transformed not only his life, but also the lives of many others in his local church. “God’s heart for immigrants and refugees is immense,” he says.  “God is moving and He is so faithful.”

Your donation to World Relief DuPage/Aurora empowers local churches to continue serving the most vulnerable people in our communities. To donate securely online, click here

November 27, 2012

All around us, there are many reasons to give thanks.  At World Relief DuPage/ Aurora [WRDA] we are filled with gratitude—for freedom and safety, for God’s provision, and for the opportunity to witness lives transformed! Through the collective efforts of our staff, volunteers and donors, we have resettled over 500 refugees and served some 4,200 immigrant clients this year. Not only are we grateful for the opportunity to stand with the world’s most vulnerable, but also for the privilege of seeing hope renewed.

From Silence to Sound
Because hearing loss disproportionally affects many Bhutanese refugees, WRDA developed a medical case management program.  When Bhutanese refugees, Nan and Dhal Ghorsai, arrived in the U.S. early this year, they were functionally deaf.  However, a partnership between the WRDA medical case management program and a local audiologist resulted in hearing aids for the couple. Now, Nan and Dhal no longer struggle to read lips, can hear the sound of their children’s voices and are learning to speak English.

From Flight to a Home
Refugees, by definition, are not from communities or countries that celebrate their contributions to society.   After fleeing from their home in the Congo and living in four different refugee camps, Pierre and Virginie Lokombe arrived in Aurora in 2010 with their four sons. Immediately, the family felt welcomed and began to invest back into the community.  Today, Pierre is a student at Waubonsee Community College, and the family, through the Individual Development Account program, is in the process of purchasing their first home in Aurora. 

From Alien to Citizen
Last April, Maria Flores attended our Citizenship Workshop, but was unable to complete the application process due to residency guidelines.  However, despite some personal and financial struggles, Maria continued to pursue citizenship and not only took the oath of alliance in October, but following the oath ceremony, registered to vote for the first time.

Finally, we are thankful for you—the community and friends who graciously welcome strangers and invest in the transformation process.   In fact, your hospitality is evident in two community events focused on celebrating refugees and immigrants.

The Aurora Historical Society (AHS)
In November, AHS hosted an exhibit on the people groups that make up Aurora.  The goal was to highlight recent immigrant groups and their contributions, which includes WRDA clients.  

There’s Room at the Table
Uniting America will host the opening of a local photo documentary project, There’s Room at the Table, which is a collaborative effort between Wheaton College, Uniting America, and World Relief DuPage/Aurora. The project highlights the daily life of refugees, immigrants and the native-born population of Wheaton and Glen Ellyn.  The exhibit opens on December 9 at 1 p.m. at the Gary United Methodist Church in Wheaton, and runs through December 16.  Hours are Sunday from 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and Wednesday 5:30-7 p.m.